A new report is shedding light on the hefty price tag associated with climate change adaptations in municipalities across Pennsylvania. The report comes in the wake of fatal flash floods in Bucks County and continued poor air quality statewide from Canadian wildfires.
Conducted by The Center for Climate Integrity, Resilient Analytics, and Scioto Analysis, the report, found that climate change adaptations will cost municipalities and taxpayers more than $15 billion by 2040.
Experts and community leaders called the report a “wake-up call” for local communities and said the findings demonstrated the consequences of inaction on climate change.
“The study coming out today from CCI is groundbreaking and something that I’ve wanted to see for so long, I was almost afraid to see it because it shows that no community in our state is going to be spared from the cost of enduring and preparing for and reacting to climate change,” Brittany Reno, mayor of Sharpsburg Borough, said on a call with reporters Wednesday.
Researchers said the study’s projects are based on “conservative cost estimates under a moderate climate scenario and excluded state and federal costs from the final climate adaptation estimate.”
Climate adaptations from increased precipitation are expected to cost the commonwealth a total of $11.7 billion by 2040.
Pennsylvania ranks second nationally for the number of structurally deficient bridges, with more than 3,000 bridges listed under the classification, according to the American Road and Transportation Builders Association.
Measures to reinforce Pennsylvania’s bridges against the growing threat of increased precipitation from climate change are expected to cost $268 million, according to the report.
Similarly, increased road maintenance due to an increase in heavy rain and heat stress could cost $2.98 billion.
Municipalities will also need to increase storm drainage capacity to mitigate flooding, costing an estimated $7.8 billion.
However, increased precipitation and flooding is not the only costly climate impact.
The report estimates that costs from adaptations needed to combat warmer temperatures will total $4 billion by 2040. Specifically, the report notes that efforts to plant trees to combat urban heat islands will cost $1.7 billion.
Schools across the commonwealth, some of which are already in need of facility repairs and maintenance, will need to install or upgrade air conditioning units to operate, costing an estimated $1.23 billion.
Expanding and operating cooling centers is expected to cost $78.8 million.
The report also noted that the cost associated with climate adaptations would not be evenly distributed, affecting more densely populated areas with vulnerable residents, such as those who are low-income or disabled, the most.
“Climate change exacerbates existing socioeconomic disparities hitting vulnerable populations to hardest lower-income communities, in particular, may struggle to recover from climate-related disasters, perpetuating the cycle of poverty and inequality,” Dr. Monica Taylor, chairperson for the Delaware County Council, said.
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