"In recent decades, changes in climate have caused impacts on natural and human systems on all continents and across the oceans."

This is according to the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report released recently that relays the impacts of climate change all over the globe. York County residents are dealing with the impacts of climate change along with the rest of the world.

Anyone excited for upcoming summer cookouts will be in for a shock if they haven't checked the price of beef lately. According to the USDA, the U.S. cattle herd is the smallest it's been since 1951. This is driving meat and dairy prices to record highs as ranchers have been dealing with years of punishing drought out West.

The Wall Street Journal reported recently, "Federal forecasters estimate retail food prices will rise as much as 3.5 percent this year, the biggest annual increase in three years, as drought in parts of the U.S. and other producing regions drives up prices for many agricultural goods."

Ongoing drought in California — which supplies about half of the nation's fruits, nuts and vegetables — will continue to raise the price of many crops.

According to the most recent U.S. Drought Monitor, 95 percent of the state of California was in severe drought or worse. More than 23 percent of the state is in "exceptional" drought, the worst category. March officially marked the end of California's "rainy" season, which normally runs from October through March. Officials there are preparing for the worst, as May starts their wildfire season, a season that has been lasting year round recently.


Bottom line: Worsening droughts due to climate change are at the very least raising food prices on all of us and threatens our food security.

Many York County residents have suffered through multiple days of power loss due to extreme weather over the past two years. Research recently released by Climate Central reports: "Climate change is causing an increase in many types of extreme weather. Heat waves are hotter, heavy rain events are heavier, and winter storms have increased in both frequency and intensity. To date, these kinds of severe weather are among the leading causes of large-scale power outages in the United States. Climate change will increase the risk of more violent weather and more frequent damage to our electrical system, affecting hundreds of millions of people, and costing Americans and the economy tens of billions of dollars each year."

Their research analyzed 28 years of power outage data from utilities. The data, supplied to the federal government and the North American Electric Reliability Corp., showed a "tenfold increase in major power outages (those affecting more than 50,000 customer homes or businesses), between the mid-1980s and 2012. Some of the increase was driven by improved reporting. Yet even since 2003, after stricter reporting requirements were widely implemented, the average annual number of weather-related power outages doubled."

Michigan led all states with 71 major weather-related power outages between 2003 and 2012, and Pennsylvania ranked fourth in outages with 52.

Climate change is leaving many in the dark.

Congress also seems to be in the dark with our rapidly destabilizing climate. Scientists are as sure we are causing the planet to warm by burning fossil fuels as they are sure that cigarettes kill. Ninety-seven percent of climate scientists agree with this, yet Congress refuses to act.

This forces President Obama to deal with the situation through the only way he can, EPA regulations.

Given many in Congress's extreme dislike of regulation, they can address the problem with a market-based approach, a steadily rising tax on fossil fuels. We can avoid harming the economy by returning 100 percent of the revenue collected back to every household, encouraging households to lower their carbon "footprint" to keep that extra cash. A carbon tax would help local companies like Voith Hydro and Johnson Controls, as investment dollars would shift away from fossil fuels toward clean energy and energy efficiency, something these two companies deal with.

One thing is certain, York County residents are paying for our addiction to fossil fuels in one form or another. It might be through higher food prices or disaster relief from more frequent and more extreme weather, negative health impacts from huge polluting sources like Brunner Island, the costs associated with treating respiratory illness and other health impacts from air and water pollution, direct subsidies to the fossil fuels industry – the list goes on.

This amounts to a distortion of the free-market. By not making fossil fuels accountable for their damages, fossil fuels enjoy a competitive advantage over clean energy at the expense of society. A revenue-neutral carbon tax is a simple and fair fix to the mother of all market failures.

— Jon Clark is Mid-Atlantic regional coordinator for Citizens' Climate Lobby.