Let’s get real: the vast majority of scientists agree that the rapid warming of our climate will have devastating impacts on communities across the globe.
This past month, we saw leaders from across the globe gather to discuss that very issue and to strategize on how to mitigate the impacts of climate change. And yes, despite our nation’s rejection of climate science, U.S. leaders did participate. In fact, they were very active during the climate summit. They even teamed up with Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Russia to block the endorsement of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on the dire consequences of climate change. The U.S. leadership went even further by promoting the use of natural gas and fossil fuels at the conference — generating genuinely appalling laughter from the audience. Not exactly the kind of participation the majority of Americans hoped for.
This leaves me to wonder: what impacts will climate change have on Wisconsin? The IPCC report warns that there are only about a dozen years to mitigate the effects of climate change before the impacts of droughts, floods, fires and super storms are worsened. For each region of the U.S. this has different consequences. In a congressionally mandated report, U.S. researches recently released a 1,500 page report on what impact climate change will have on the U.S. and the prospects aren’t looking good for Wisconsin.
The Midwest could see some of the largest temperature increases of any region in the U.S. For a state that prides itself on frosty winters and comfortable lakeside temps, Wisconsin might instead begin seeing summertime temperatures similar to that of current day Arizona. And our greatest pride and joy — our abundant waters — well, they could see an increasing amount of toxic algae blooms as a result of warmer temperatures and larger farms. But that’s not all. Some estimates show that corn and soybean production will drop by as much as 25 percent, making feed for dairy farmers even more expensive.
Climate change isn’t just an environmental issue — it’s an economic issue. According to Travel Wisconsin, tourism had a $20.7 billion impact on our state. What happens to that industry when our lakes are green all summer and our winters have too little snow? What will the economic impact be on our state’s rich agriculture heritage? Cherries, dairy, cranberries and paper products all stand to take a hit as temperatures rise.
And yet there is still reason for hope. Cities and states are acting all across the U.S., despite the Trump Administrations insistence on ignoring climate science. In fact, Minnesota has joined other states in signing on to the Paris Climate Accord and is widely expected to reach their goal of 25 percent renewable energy production by 2025. And we could even see some action here in Wisconsin. During the campaign, Gov.-elect Tony Evers stated that he supported the goals outlined in the Paris Climate Accord. Yet without a supportive legislature, Evers is unlikely to be able to take any significant action on climate change.
The back-and-forth negotiations and dire predictions can certainly weigh heavy on the mind. It’s all enough to feel like throwing in the towel. But know this — you are not powerless! You can call your representatives and ask what they are doing to help protect Wisconsin from the worst consequences of climate change (visit maps.legis.wisconsin.gov to find your lawmaker’s contact information). You can also make home energy upgrades that not only make long-term economic sense, but also pay you actual cash. I just received a check in the mail for upgrading my furnace, and was even paid to recycle an outdated, energy sucking fridge (visit focusonenergy.com or contact your energy company for ways to save when upgrading). And then there’s our daily lives, and with the holiday season upon us, there are a lot of ways to make more environmentally friendly decisions. There’s never a better time of year to resolve to build a better planet — for all of our sakes. So in 2019, I’m resolving to act in a way that ensures that Wisconsin’s beauty isn’t just there for me to enjoy, but that it endures through the generations. I hope you’ll join me.