Image by Austin Pacheco via Unsplash. Screen-Shot-2019-11-15-at-9.37.17-AM
Image by Austin Pacheco via Unsplash.

When it comes to addressing the climate crisis, Auditor General Eugene DePasquale calls for the state “to be a leader among states—not a follower.”

Last year, the effects of climate change cost Pennsylvania taxpayers at least $261 million, according to a new report from the state Auditor General’s office. Half of that—$125.7 million—was attributed to infrastructure damage caused by floods and landslides.

“Your tax dollars will increasingly be spent to clean up after such disasters if state government

does not step up now and limit our contribution to the climate crisis,” Auditor General Eugene DePasquale wrote in a letter to Pennsylvanians that prefaces the report. “Instead of reacting only after a weather crisis, Pennsylvania’s leaders should be proactively seeking to mitigate the effects of coming storms, prioritizing actions that create family-sustaining jobs in fields such as construction and civil engineering. It is a simple fact that every $1 spent on preventing natural disaster damage saves $6 in recovery costs.”

The report explores some of the ways the climate crisis affects Pennsylvania specifically, including:

  • parts of Philadelphia International Airport being at risk for flooding
  • an increase of up to $1 million in annual electricity costs for the city of Philadelphia from higher demand for air conditioning in municipal buildings
  • a 550-percent increase in cases of West Nile virus between 2017 to 2018
  • a price tag of $105 million in 2018 alone to repair state-maintained roads and bridges damaged by natural disasters.

“What concerns me most are the potential impacts that we can’t yet see, driving new costs that will increasingly strain state and municipal budgets,” DePasquale said in a statement. “It’s difficult for most people to fathom the magnitude of the problems that lie ahead—which only makes the planning process even more challenging.”

In addition to offering an in-depth look at the issue, DePasquale—who’s also running as a Democratic candidate for central Pennsylvania’s 10th Congressional District—also offered a roadmap to address the changing climate after hosting public hearings in Pittsburgh, State College and Harrisburg. 

Among the report’s nine recommendations: improve coordination between state, county and local leaders to address the issue at all levels of government; create a public awareness campaign to help more citizens understand the severity of global warming and how they can reduce greenhouse gas emissions; create a “resiliency fund” for natural disaster cleanup; and offer incentives to get more people to use electric vehicles.

“Because of Pennsylvania’s major role in energy production, we have a responsibility to be a leader among states—not a follower,” DePasquale said. “As a state, we are the fourth-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, and we have very few plans to help us improve that ranking.”

Shortly after the report’s release, Pennsylvania state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, a Republican representing the 12th district, released a statement calling it “unsettled Chicken Little fear-mongering.” 

“As I have repeatedly stated in my legitimate role as Majority Chairman of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee,” Metcalfe said, “the very real threats to responsible environmental stewardship and Pennsylvania’s rapidly expanding Energy-Enabled Economy is coming from the deep-pocketed climate alarmist lobby, which is generating fake fear to take more money from the taxpayers and job creators who actually work for it.”

According to a poll conducted earlier this year from Franklin & Marshall College, most voters in the state believe climate change is a serious issue that warrants action by the state.