Highlights need for expedient action

MADISON — The disastrous floods that ravaged southern Wisconsin this week are consistent with global warming predictions according to a January 2007 Clean Wisconsin report. The report, Global Warming Arrives in Wisconsin, forecast that global warming would lead to increased instances of severe droughts, more intense floods and increased snowfall.

“In the year and a half since the release of this report, we have seen a summer of extreme drought end with intense flooding, a winter of record snowfall and now a spring ending with some of the worst flooding in recent memory,” said Keith Reopelle, Senior Policy Director at Clean Wisconsin, the state’s largest environmental advocacy organization. “Many of the impacts of global warming are occurring much sooner than predicted.”

While no single weather event can be attributed to global warming, the increasing intensity of weather patterns suggests we may be witnessing the first major impacts in Wisconsin. PEW Center Senior Scientist Dr. Jay Gulledge spoke at this year’s 2nd annual Nelson Institute Earth Day Conference and noted that “many of the predicted [weather] changes have actually been observed in patterns.” For example, Dr. Gulledge noted that “arctic sea ice is decreasing in both area and volume,” and that “sea level rise is accelerating” faster than models forecast.

Scientists predict that increased temperatures will increase winter precipitation by 15 to 30 percent while decreasing summer precipitation by up to 20 percent. Less frequent but more intense storms explain the increased likelihood of summer droughts and floods.

“This week we have all witnessed the economic, environmental and emotional devastation intense weather events can bring,” Reopelle said. “These floods demonstrate the terrible risks associated with global warming.”

By leading to more intense weather events, global warming is predicted to disrupt Wisconsin’s tourism and agricultural industries. The recent loss of Lake Delton and massive crop damage associated with this week’s flooding highlight these risks. Luckily, investment in global warming solutions like renewable energy production can create jobs in manufacturing, construction and research fields, helping to boost the state’s economy.

“Our hearts go out to all of those affected by this terrible disaster,” Reopelle said. “We must do everything in our power to reduce the risk of future catastrophic events by implementing smart and expedient policies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The cost associated with the impacts of global warming will dwarf any costs of acting now to reduce global warming pollution.”