The Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change held a discussion regarding its collaborative efforts with the City of Madison to ensure the isthmus is better prepared for the economic and infrastructural impacts of climate disasters, Tuesday night.
WICCI co-director, Steve Vavrus, and Madison deputy mayor, Christine Baumel, said there is an urgent need to better prepare for climate change.
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Vavrus began the presentation with an overview of the damage Midwestern communities have faced due to climate-induced disasters. He touched on the widespread flooding seen across the region last spring.
Vavrus said the City of Madison lost $1.6 million in emergency costs to this flooding. Vavrus then described the current infrastructure of the United States as outdated and said climate change will continue to hurt cities if their design is not updated.
“A lot of our infrastructure was built in the mid-20th century, and it was not designed to withstand the weather events we’ve seen lately or will see in the future,” Vavrus said.
Vavrus said WICCI’s goal is to generate climate solutions in Wisconsin through scientific research and community outreach. There are various working groups within WICCI that focus on combating the effects of climate change on various ecosystems including water, land and air.
Baumel summarized the specific measures Madison’s government plans to implement in preparing the city for a climate crisis. Baumel said efforts to safeguard against natural disasters and erratic temperatures are critically important to Madison’s economy.
“What about our budget?” Baumel said. “Are we running through our water budget? Are we going to be filling more potholes? Things that may seem small, but they add up.”
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Madison’s strategy includes efforts to contain flooding across the city through lake water level management, updating stormwater code requirements, better-distributing buildings across the city and improving flood management techniques.
Baumel said projects in conjunction with the WICCI are still very much in the early research phase, but she was optimistic about the future outlook of climate readiness in Madison.
The WICCI will hold an additional joint climate discussion with city officials April 20.