Friday, August 22, 2014

Under Attack? Climate Change Raises PA's Pesky Insect Population

Tom Joseph, Public News Service (PA)

PHOTO: A new National Wildlife Federation report says climate change is prompting bigger populations of familiar pests and insects, as well as some not seen before in Pennsylvania. Photo credit: Charles Rondeau/publicdomainpictures.net
PHOTO: A new National Wildlife Federation report says climate change is prompting bigger populations of familiar pests and insects, as well as some not seen before in Pennsylvania. Photo credit: Charles Rondeau/publicdomainpictures.net
HARRISBURG, Pa. - Many forms of wildlife in Pennsylvania, from trees and plants to fish, have suffered the dangerous effects of climate change, but insects are thriving in the state's warmer climate, according to a new report from the National Wildlife Federation.

The evidence is clear, said Ed Perry, Pennsylvania outreach coordinator for the federation's Global Warming Campaign. He pointed to the Asian tiger mosquito, which first surfaced in Texas in the mid 1980s and now calls parts of south-central Pennsylvania home - bringing with it an arsenal of harmful diseases.

"Eastern equine encephalitis, West Nile, yellow fever. This thing, unlike other mosquitoes, it's out in the middle of the day," Perry said, "so when you're out mowing your yard, you're liable to be attacked by this mosquito."

Perry said tick populations are higher and more varied as well. He said they have infested the moose population so badly that some animals are scraping off their fur against trees in an attempt to rid themselves of ticks. That behavior leaves the moose susceptible to hypothermia and death in the colder months.

Despite almost unanimous consensus among scientists that climate change exists and is worsening, Perry said the concept still has its naysayers.

"It's beyond question that things are happening. Every species of plant, animal and insect that can move north or up in elevation is trying to do so," Perry said. "So, there's no 'deniers' in the natural world."

The report said solutions to global warming are within reach, although some are controversial. Perry said the Obama administration has taken a promising lead in cleaning up the air with the Environmental Protection Agency's plan to curb carbon emissions from power plants by 30 percent in the next 15 years.

"Reduce carbon pollution from future and existing coal-fired power plants; by increasing the gas mileage requirements for cars and light trucks," he said. "We need our elected representatives to speak out loudly in support of the president's plan."

Opponents of the EPA plan say it will cost jobs, especially in coal-producing states, and pinch the budgets of all Americans through higher utility costs.

The full report is online at nwf.org.

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