As concerns over the implications of global climate change have risen, studies show they have spurred action in Wisconsin and across the nation to address the issue with carbon emissions standards, renewable energy requirements and public awareness.
According to a recent report released by Wisconsin Environment, an environmental advocacy group, Wisconsin’s energy efficiency requirements reduced carbon pollution by at least 4 million metric tons in 2012 alone, which is equal to the annual emissions of more than 850,000 cars.
Additionally, the study found that Wisconsin’s renewable electricity standards have helped Wisconsin generate enough renewable energy to offset as much carbon pollution as 191,667 cars produce in a year.
“By using energy more efficiently, and by generating more power from clean, renewable sources, we are delivering a one-two punch in the fight against global warming,” Megan Severson, state advocate with Wisconsin Environment, said in the report. “We’ve proven that we have what it takes to protect our children and future generations from the worst impacts of climate change. We will need firm limits on carbon pollution in order to deliver a knockout blow.”
Earlier this year, Rep. Cory Mason, D-Racine, introduced a bill to further ramp up Wisconsin’s renewable energy production by requiring utilities to produce 30 percent of their power from renewable sources like solar, wind and bio-fuels by the year 2030. The bill gained no traction in the Legislature.
Clean Wisconsin, a leading advocacy group for environmental efforts in Wisconsin, has a network of 20,000 Wisconsinites that volunteer and write to Congress and the EPA to push for increased environmental protection, Clean Wisconsin spokesperson, David Hunt said.
“We are also currently working with the EPA to craft a nationwide policy on carbon emissions,” Hunt said.
In Wisconsin, Focus on Energy, the state’s utilities’ statewide energy efficiency and renewable resource program, has helped 2.7 million Wisconsin residents install cost-effective energy efficient renewable energy projects in their businesses and homes since 2001. Hunt said this project alone has produced enough energy to avoid the building of two more power plants in the state.
In an interview with The Badger Herald, Severson said Wisconsin should look toward California’s cap and trade system if the state wants to see major improvement in carbon emissions.
“As far as a good state policy that Wisconsin could model to tackle carbon pollution, California’s carbon cap and trade system is the best. Some of the other states with carbon caps might be developing rules, but I don’t think any of them are as far along as California,” Severson said.
Though Wisconsin’s efforts show promise, Wisconsin still trails behind 12 other states with greater emissions reductions, according to the report.
California, which enacted the Global Warming Solutions Act in 2006, set the goal to achieve greenhouse gas limits of 427 million tons or less of carbon pollution per year by 2020. According to Wisconsin Environment, California saved the environment from 20 million metric tons of carbon emissions through their energy efficient policies in 2012 alone.
A report released by energy think tank World Resources Institute shows that if Wisconsin continues to increase renewable power generation by 1 percent per year after 2015, Wisconsin can reduce 6 percent of total carbon emissions in 2011 by 2020.