A report recently released by a national environmental organization suggests Wisconsin’s substantial climate change adaptation plans should be implemented immediately to address imminent threats.
Wisconsin is ranked among the best states in the nation with respect to its climate change plans, though implementation of those plans has not yet been achieved, according to a study released by the Natural Resources Defense Council, a non-profit environmental advocacy group.
Although the study hailed Wisconsin as one of nine states that has developed a satisfactory, comprehensive plan to address issues of climate change, the study primarily stressed that Wisconsin should prioritize the plan’s implementation as soon as possible.
The study also noted recent changes in Wisconsin’s government have hurt its ability to implement the plans in a timely manner.
According to Michael Notaro, University of Wisconsin Center for Climatic Research associate director, plans to implement climate change adaptation strategies have begun at a very small scale in the state.
“At this point, adaptation is in its earlier stages, of course, but we’re trying to really come up with some good approaches and trying to implement them on a smaller scale to see what works and doesn’t work,” Notaro said.
Notaro cited the establishment of the Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts in 2007 as an example of the progress that adaptation strategies have seen in the state.
WICCI is a program created by a joint effort between the UW Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies and Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources that researches and assesses climate change in the state and develops strategies to address the issue.
The program has achieved significant success in creating climate change adaptation strategies, according to Notaro. One such example is the idea of species relocation. With Wisconsin winters averaging as much as four degrees higher than temperatures in the 1950s, concern for the state’s evergreen forest population has also risen. One suggestion to combat rising temperatures has been to relocate the evergreens to cooler landscapes up north, he said.
Another WICCI strategy that has received praise is the reinforcement of sewer systems across Wisconsin.
The NRDC study reported that climate change has impacted precipitation rates in the nation, and it added that heavy rainfall could become nearly 25 percent more frequent by 2050 in Wisconsin. Notaro also said Wisconsin rainfall has increased six inches per year in some parts of the state. Reinforcing sewage systems would help to avoid flooding events caused by that increased rainfall, such as the flooding of Lake Delton in 2008.
WICCI has created other strategies to address water threats from climate change, including water conversation and wetlands restoration work.
Notaro and the NRDC study diverged on some aspects of climate change research. Although the study said climate change may be cyclical or man-made, Notaro stressed that there is little room for argument that human actions have not impacted it.
“Most people don’t have a doubt that [climate change] is related to human activity,” Notaro said. “There’s a very large likelihood that the warming that’s occurred, particularly in the last few decades, has been related to human emissions.”