While Pennsylvania’s political leaders deliberately ignore the threat of greenhouse pollution, the state has been battered by extreme flooding worsened by global warming. Under Gov. Tom Corbett (R-PA), Pennsylvania has withdrawn from the legal defense of the Environmental Protection Agency’s endangerment finding for greenhouse gases. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that on August 5 the state “withdrew from four cases” defending the endangerment rule:
According to federal court records, the state Aug. 5 withdrew from four cases it joined in 2010 in support of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s “endangerment” rule. That ruling found that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas pollutants that contribute to climate change also jeopardize human health and should be regulated by limiting emissions from vehicles, power plants and other large stationary sources. Those four endangerment cases were filed by the Coalition for Responsible Regulation, a Texas-based nonprofit association of industry and business interests, to challenge the EPA’s first-ever rule regulating greenhouse gas emissions. Pennsylvania and 15 other states had intervened on behalf of the EPA.
Since then, “rainfall totaling one foot or more caused the Susquehanna River to surge to unprecedented levels – besting the benchmark flood for the region, which occurred as a result of Hurricane Agnes in 1972,” Andrew Freedman reports. “Harrisburg received 13.30 inches of rain, and a whopping 15.20 inches fell in Lancaster County during Sept. 5-8.”
Dave Bollinger, outreach coordinator for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, told the Wilkes-Barre Citizens Voice that weather is getting more extreme, more often. “What’s happening is a 345-year flood you aren’t supposed to have is happening every 50 years,” he said. “We are seeing the effects of changing weather patterns.”
“One of the most robust climate change predictions is for more intense rainfall and flooding, due to the simple fact that a warmer atmosphere holds more water vapor, meaning there is greater potential for heavy precipitation,” climate scientist Michael Mann told ThinkProgress Green. “While specific weather events always contain a large random component — like a roll of the weather dice — we are loading those dice through the warming of the planet resulting from fossil fuel burning. We are seeing those loaded dice in action with the events that have unfolded this summer, including the record-setting flooding we are seeing in the eastern U.S.”
The EPA’s endangerment finding cites exactly this danger from increasing greenhouse gas pollution:
Increases in the frequency of heavy precipitation events are associated with increased risk of deaths and injuries as well as infectious, respiratory, and skin diseases. Floods are low-probability, high-impact events that can overwhelm physical infrastructure, human resilience, and social organization. Flood health impacts include deaths, injuries, infectious diseases, intoxications, and mental health problems.