Wisconsin fishing, agriculture and Great Lakes are areas of continued concern

MADISON — Today’s release of the third U.S. National Climate Assessment underscores the need for common-sense action to reverse the effects of climate change in Wisconsin, where numerous threats to agriculture, trout fishing and the ecosystem have been building for years.

“Being America’s Dairyland, home to breathtaking lakefronts, a huge shipping industry and world-class fish and wildlife resources means we have a lot to lose here in Wisconsin,” said Keith Reopelle, senior policy director for Clean Wisconsin, the state’s largest environmental organization. “This isn’t just about hotter days; it’s a threat to our culture, our health and our economy. Fortunately, there are many reasonable solutions at our fingertips.”

Already, Wisconsin’s average temperature has risen by 1.1 degrees Fahrenheit over the past century with projections ranging as high as 9 degrees higher by mid-century and 13 degrees by year 2100. Cold water trout fishing in Wisconsin offers one of the most vivid examples of what could be. Although the state is fortunate to have more than 10,000 miles of trout streams, current climate projections suggest we may lose more than 90 percent of our current native trout habitat by 2050.

If climate change is left unaddressed, Wisconsin faces an estimated:

  • Tripling of the number of days over 90 degrees, resulting in poorer air quality and dangerous heat waves, along with increased demands on the power supply for cooling.
  • 90 to 100 percent loss of native trout habitat; with major, regional, associated declines in the state’s multi-million dollar fishing business.
  • Drought and other severe weather events that threaten long-term livestock production, a crucial threat in Wisconsin where 44 percent of the land is devoted to agriculture.
  • Reduced Great Lakes water levels through increased evaporation on hotter days, creating damaging effects on shipping, ecosystems and infrastructure.
  • Extreme precipitation events putting a strain on urban sewerage systems, creating overflow threats to water quality and public health.

“These are all-too-real threats that challenge us more with every passing day,” said Reopelle. “It’s time for us all to collaborate on solutions that will preserve the many great cultural and economic traditions of our state for future generations.”

In terms of solutions, Wisconsin can realize a 26 percent reduction of carbon emissions (below 2011 levels) by 2020 simply by building on existing clean energy policies, such as our renewable portfolio standard and the Focus on Energy conservation programs, and by making existing power generation more efficient. An analysis released in December by the World Resources Institute shows that if Wisconsin were to double its investment in energy efficiency, increase its renewable portfolio standard by one percent each year between 2015 and 2020 (reaching 15 percent renewables by 2020), and develop more of the state’s potential for combined heat and power facilities at industrial and municipal sites, Wisconsin’s carbon emissions can be reduced by a whopping 43 percent by 2020.