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Pittsburgh's Takeaways From The UN Climate Action Summit

Andrew Harnik
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto appears before a Senate Democrats' Special Committee on the Climate Crisis on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, July 17, 2019.

On today's program: Mayor Peduto returns from the world stage on climate action; robotics and AI are helping power a local agriculture company; Pittsburgh restaurants are helping restore the Chesapeake Bay; the state Supreme Court declines to abolish capital punishment in PA; and a reporter hopes to find tangible solutions to child poverty in the region. 

Still forthcoming OnePGH plan to include climate action goals
(00:00 — 12:33) 

Mayor Bill Peduto represented Pittsburgh at the United Nations Climate Action Summit last week in New York, where he says few commitments were made by the nations themselves. 

"A lot of these initiatives, if not all of them, are basically under the purview of local governments," Peduto says.

He says Pittsburgh will adopt the UN's 17 lofty #Envision2030 goals—which include eliminating poverty, hunger and more—in October as part of the city's OnePGH plan. The mayor has talked about, but never fully unveiled, OnePGH since 2014.

He compares the UN trip to last year's sojourn to Poland, plus how Pittsburgh specifically can help address the climate crisis and why he's inspired by young activists like Greta Thunberg.

Fifth Season proves large-scale farming isn't strictly a rural enterprise
(13:20 — 17:45) 

A new type of indoor farming has sprouted in Pittsburgh, using robotics to grow fresh local produce year round.

Fifth Season, founded as RoBotany in 2016, was launched through a Carnegie Mellon University business and robotics incubator. Co-founder and CEO Austin Webb says the company uses vertical farming to grow leafy greens and herbs all year round.

“Vertical farming is a new age method of growing food indoors, where plant beds are stacked like a bookshelf,” Webb says. “We use LED lighting in order to replicate the sun, and we always have a perfect environment for plants to thrive in that allows us to really maximize freshness and ensure highest quality.” 

The company is currently expanding into a 60,000-square-foot facility in Braddock. 

How Pittsburgh restaurants can help restore Chesapeake Bay
(17:50 — 24:48) 

Half of the land area of Pennsylvania drains into the Chesapeake Bay, and that includes a lot of pollution, mostly from agricultural runoff and sewage overflows. Recently, the commonwealth has come under fire from Maryland’s governor for not investing enough money to help clean up the bay.

For StateImpact Pennsylvania, Kara Holsopple reports a handful of Pittsburgh restaurants have joined a recycling effort to improve water quality in the bay using oyster shells. 

PA Supreme Court declines to issue what could've been an historic ruling
(24:50 — 32:03)

Nationwide, 21 states have abolished the death penalty, and two death row inmates in Pennsylvania were hoping the commonwealth would be next. But the state Supreme Court rejected their petition to declare capital punishment unconstitutional. So what comes next for the 130+ state inmates still sentenced to die?

90.5 WESA legal analyst and University of Pittsburgh law professor David Harris says the ruling leaves the door open for case-by-case rulings, but declines to decipher whether the death sentence qualifies as "cruel" punishment — a distinction banned by the state constitution. 

Pennsylvania's death penalty has been used just three times since since 1978, most recently the Philadelphia basement torture killer Gary Heidnik in 1999. Gov. Tom Wolf declared a moratorium on carrying out the death penalty in 2015. 

The Post-Gazette explores grown-up solutions to combat child poverty 
(32:08 — 39:06)

When children grow up in poverty, everything suffers — their prospects for education and future jobs, and their likelihood of facing violence, incarceration and diminished health. In Pittsburgh, lots of people and organizations are trying to help, but the solutions can be complicated.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporter Rich Lord is trying to bring a little clarity to the process. For the rest of this year, Lord says he's hoping to collect proven solutions to child poverty — some local, some state-level, some national in scope — and publish them online. He's also taking suggestions. Email them to

90.5 WESA's Kristofer Stubbs contributed to this program.

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in weekdays at 9 a.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts.

Kiley Koscinski is a general assignment reporter for 90.5 WESA. She previously produced The Confluence and Morning Edition. Before coming to WESA, she worked as an assignment desk editor and producer at 1020 AM KDKA. She can be reached at
Kevin Gavin is the host of WESA's news interview program "The Confluence." He is a native Pittsburgher and served as news director for 90.5 WDUQ for 34 years. Since the sale of the radio station by Duquesne University to Pittsburgh EPM, Inc. (now Pittsburgh Community Broadcasting Corp.), he served as Executive Producer of Special News Projects prior to being named as host of "The Confluence" five years ago.
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