Climate Change & Economy


To solve the climate crisis, the world must cut its reliance on fossil fuels and make the transition to renewable energy and a low-carbon economy.  But this transition has to be a just and fair one. Our challenge as activists is to support the communities that depend on fossil fuels for their livelihoods through this shift so that the burden of change does not fall disproportionately on any one group and all citizens benefit from a clean energy future. 

For two centuries, Pittsburgh made its name as a hub of heavy industry. Workers toiled in the city’s steel mills and miners in western Pennsylvania helped power America with coal mined from the “Pittsburgh coal bed,” the thickest and most extensive coal bed in the Appalachian Basin. [12] However, as the region’s extractive and manufacturing industries steadily decline, and mines continue to close, [13] affected communities are increasingly being left on their own, without jobs or opportunities. Further exacerbating the problem, the Trump administration’s proposed budget would eliminate funding for the Appalachian Regional Commission, a federal economic development agency designed to lift up these affected regions by providing retraining and other assistance. [14]

In stark contrast, the Pittsburgh region has been evolving from a center for manufacturing into a multi-industry hub for education, healthcare, technology, and sustainable development, creating new opportunities for workers and becoming the second-ranked large metro center for upward mobility. Renewable energy and energy efficiency have played a central role in this transition and today, statewide the sector now employs some 70,000 workers – more than coal, oil, and natural gas sectors combined. [15] Plus, these jobs are growing at time when Allegheny County leads the state in clean energy jobs. [16]

The challenge for policymakers and activists alike is to ensure these same opportunities reach communities in the Keystone State where mining and resource extraction are not only bedrocks of the regional economy, but have supported generations and become central to local culture. Commitment to a just transition calls on activists to work for retraining programs that help workers develop highly-marketable skills and tap into the new sectors and industries in western Pennsylvania that continue to grow.

Photo (c)2016 by Jay Kuntz; used with permission

Photo (c)2016 by Jay Kuntz; used with permission


Impacts on Agriculture, Infrastructure, and Economy

Pittsburgh. Photo by Chris Litherland Photography

Pittsburgh. Photo by Chris Litherland Photography

• Pennsylvania’s agriculture, including the dairy industry in Pennsylvania, is likely to be negatively affected by climate change due to losses in milk yields caused by heat stress and lower levels of forage quality [35].

• Forests are the dominant land use in Pennsylvania. Climate change is expected to result in changes in suitable habitat for species. Those where Pennsylvania is currently at the southern extent of their suitable habitat will likely become increasingly stressed [23].

• Warming may promote the growth of weeds, which can reduce crop yields. It may also lead to a northward expansion of plant parasites and insects, and overwintering insects, such as the corn flea beetle, presenting different challenges than those faced today [36].

• Climate change is more likely to have negative consequences on land values in the southern portions of Pennsylvania [34].


• Temperature and precipitation variability, along with increased weather extremes and changes in disease and insects may lead to a greater demand by farmers for risk management products such as crop insurance [37].

• Extreme weather, the likes of which is expected to increase with climate change, can cause costly damage to infrastructure. For instance, five major flooding events in Delaware Canal State Park since 2000 have cost Pennsylvania taxpayers over $32 million in repairs [38].

• Winter recreation in Pennsylvania, such as downhill ski and snowboard resorts, are expected to take a significant hit as winter low temperatures continue to rise and a higher proportion of precipitation is expected to fall as rain as opposed to snow. This will have significant impacts on winter recreation [39 or 24]. Much of Pennsylvania is projected to have insufficient snow cover, a 20 to 60 percent decrease [40], by the end of the century to support skiing or snowmobiling, and insufficient ice to support ice fishing [41].