Sunday, August 15, 2021

Wisconsin climate crisis deepened by damaging GOP mischief, denial

After welcoming back our electricity and tossing our fridge-and-freezer-loads of food - minor inconveniences compared to downed trees and even a lightning-destroyed home not far away - I noted this for-Journal Sentinel-subscribers-only headline and story

Severe storms and tornadoes pummeled Wisconsin in August. Climate change could make them more frequent

The headline a) understates the obvious, and, along with the text, b) omits the Walker-era's malignant neglect of science and realities which guarantee that Wisconsin's climate change burden which has already has harmed people, businesses, budgets, waters, forests, land and longevity will be needlessly painful.

I'm listing below just some of evidence I'd previously gathered, so let's expand the record:

* From October, 2018:

Walker's eight-year attack on the environment, in 21 parts
...the political environment and natural environment absolutely are in trouble. Hence this 21-part series, "Walker's 8-year war on the Wisconsin environment" -  covers climate science, clean water, fresh air, critical wetlands, public trust wildlife, science, information, expertise, budgets, transparency and fairness.



* From March, 2018:

About that wildfire season the DNR says is 'heating up.'
Academics have been studying the projected impacts of climate change and temperatures increases on Wisconsin forests for years. 
In the coming century, forecast climate changes caused by increasing greenhouse gases may produce dramatic shifts in tree species distributions and the rates at which individual tree species sequester carbon or release carbon back to the atmosphere. The species composition and carbon storage capacity of northern Wisconsin (USA) forests are expected to change significantly as a result. Projected temperature changes are relatively large (up to a 5.8°C increase in mean annual temperature) and these forests encompass a broad ecotone that may be particularly sensitive to climate change. 
The Union of Concerned Scientists sees a link between a warming climate and greater wildfire danger- As the world warms, we can expect more wildfires

 * From August, 2018:  

Wisconsin landscape flooded with water, dismissal of science, too

Wisconsin was hit earlier this year by flooding that scoured away cars, pavement, and land. Now it's happened again.

We've also got Scott Walker's 'chamber of commerce mentality' management that scrubbed away important information about why the flooding is likely to get worse, having ignored expert, public warnings about insufficient stormwater management and funding since 2003.

The rains in SE Wisconsin did stop and flooding from Dane County to Ixonia to Watertown to I-43 in Milwaukee County has receded, but water levels will continue to rise and more rain is in the forecast.

So I wonder: is there a bigger picture to this?, since parts of Wisconsin - - Watertown, 2016Racine County,2017, Racine County, 2008, Madison, 2018, historic flooding in NW Wisconsin in 2018 and 2016

 etc.  - - have been hit by rains routinely labeled heavy, historic, worst ever, and so on.

* From August, 2017:

Wisconsin dismisses climate science as farms, roads and people suffer
For perspective - - Many Western Wisconsin roads and other infrastructure washed out in 2016 floods are still not rebuilt; one NW local official says he has seen a dozen 100-year-storms in the last 30 years, while a state official says road-building standards have not caught up with "evidence...pointing towards increasing frequency of large" storm events.

 * From May, 2017: 

Climate change threatens WI walleye, yet WI DNR denies climate change 
Probably no fish is more dear to the state's recreational economy and thousands  of anglers - -  "highly prized," says the Wisconsin DNR - - than walleye.

So maybe that same Wisconsin DNR will rethink its decision to scrub climate change from its websites now that climate scientists are saying measures should be taken because climate change will lessen the ability of some state lakes to support walleye.

* From December, 2016

Many ways WI ideologues killed climate science, data
I've noted several times on this blog - - here or here and most recently, here - - that Wisconsin GOP Gov. Scott Walker's "chamber of commerce mentality" Department of Natural Resources had deleted information and links to outside sources about climate change which had been posted on a DNR climate change website before Walker took office.

Walker also wiped out DNR science positions as part of his effort to weaken the agency and its research, inspection, enforcement and information-gathering roles.

Let me also excerpt additional information I'd posted in a comprehensive review of Walker's damage to the DNR which was supplied from current and former Wisconsin DNR staffers about internal methods other than outright website scrubbing that DNR decision-makers and Walker budgeting have used to downgrade, obstruct or otherwise minimize public, scientific information in the agency's possession:

 *  A third former staffer said: 
The most alarming issue to me is the great waste of decades of sound science, compiled overtime in on-going studies and data collection. WI had more information about our natural landscape than most states. Abolishing science services put an end to decades long studies vital to maintaining and recovering rare and endangered plants and animals as well as understanding natural communities as information on resilience for climate change. 
* A current employe on personal time echoed many of the lobbyists and former staffers' observations:
Under Walker and Stepp, science is not a priority. Scientific knowledge is ever-changing but in Wisconsin our staff are being left behind. We no longer have a statistician to help interpret data, a library to provide journals or books, or researchers that monitor fish counts, wildlife health, air quality, water quality and etc….employee scientific knowledge and data specific to WI is stagnant...we cannot do the best job possible for our state. 
The DNR is currently run by people who understand public relations spin but not the complexity of the natural resources they are responsible for...Communications staff, generally not trained specifically in resource communication, answer questions with talking points..usually developed by upper management - political appointees - and legal staff. The information provided is biased and superficial.
And here's a summary of the devastating impact that Walker is having on the Wisconsin environment through the DNR he has damaged with the cooperation of our corporate-obeisant State Legislature:
It was just a few days before he took office in late December, 2010 when GOP Governor-elect Scott Walker suffered a rare outburst of transparency by saying he'd chosen Cathy Stepp - - Racine-area developer/ex-state senator/former McDonald's manager and openly sarcastic, partisan critic of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources - -  to head up that very agency because he wanted a "chamber of commerce mentality" in charge there.

 * Note the relevancy of the conclusion of this item and string that dates to 2003

The Bush EPA urged states, cities to prepare for climate change in 2003

Then-Milwaukee Mayor John Norquist and I attended a conference in Chicago in 2003, hosted by Mayor Richard Daley, where officials from the EPA told Midwestern elected leaders that climate change models predicted heavier rain events.

The EPA officials were urging the Midwestern leaders to adapt their planning and spending to more aggressively confront storm water and related services because heavier, intense rains were going to be come more frequent.

Part of the message was: forget the notion of the "100-year-storm." They'll come more often than that in the Midwest as the atmosphere warms.

Again - - this wasn't advocacy science or partisan scare tactics.

This was basic municipal planning/dollars-and-sense advice from people in the George W. Bush administration to Midwestern mayors offered as an inter-governmental service because climate change was going to hit cities' budgets and constituents in difficult new ways....

Seems pretty relevant this weekend, no?

And, finally, this from August, 2018:

A few comments on Dylan Brogan's must-read piece in the current Isthmus about flooding in Madison.... 

Brogan's reporting gets Walker on the record about climate change - - a rare feat in itself -- and exposes Walker's defensive, talking point superficiality on a matter he's dismissed that is contributing to tens of millions of dollars in repetitive events, and has again killed state residents.

Brogan wrote:

Marston Avenue resident Bob Spoerke spent the last week watching the Tenney Park lagoon creep up to the sidewalk in front of his house. He says he questioned the governor about the state Department of Natural Resources purging language on its website attributing climate change to human activities and rising levels of carbon dioxide. He also told the governor that climate change was real. 
“[Walker] looked at me and said ‘that’s your opinion.’ But climate change isn’t my opinion, it’s established fact,” says Spoerke. “I’ve been agitated ever since. There’s been two catastrophic floods in northern Wisconsin the past three years. These 100- and 500-year events are happening every few months.”

I was also happy to see Brogan bring the UW-Madison's Center for Limnology lab into the discussion, given its status in lake science and karmic proximity to the Madison area's flooding problems....

Like the DNR he has weakened, and the Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts he disconnected from the DNR's climate change web page which Walker had censored, the Limnology resource is another state asset his corrosive lack of curiosity leaves unexamined to our collective harm.

I noted a bit of this a few months ago after Walker had posted what was essentially a tourist's photo of Lake Mendota on his twitter page:

And it was on the Limnology school's blog just over a year ago that UW professors blasted Walker's DNR for having scrubbed ciimate change data and science - - facts impacting Lake Mendota and other bodies of water in Wisconsin which Walker does not see or appreciate from official state websites - - and I will italicize what is most relevant right now among eight connected scientific and economic findings the experts had listed:

* Increases in extreme rain events are increasing runoff from farm fields into downstream waterways and lakes, reducing water quality. 
But the real gem, the must-memoralize keeper in Brogan's report, is how Walker tried to sucker a citizen into cursing the governor that would have been immediately amplified by the right-wing noise machine to distort and deflect the story away from climate science and flooding to 'bad liberal insults hard-working governor.'
Tom Kasper, a resident of Elizabeth Street, held a sign behind Walker that accused the governor of staging a photo op while ignoring climate change.
Another man biked up to Walker to confront him: “Gov. Walker, I want to say that your time and energy would be much better spent enacting policies to counteract climate change rather than shoveling sand into bags. Would you agree?”
“Glad you’re here. Thanks for watching,” replied Walker. “You can say what you want. You can call me a F-word if you want.”
“I’m not doing that,” the man countered. “I’m just saying climate change policy would be more effective than shoveling sand. Otherwise, you’ll be out here next year, too.”
Props again to Dylan Brogan and Isthmus for the outstanding report.
Man on an island. Judith Davidoff photo also credited here.


1 comment:

Man MKE said...

Masterful hypertext survey of this outrageous, willful disregard for our environment. Thanks for compiling and recompiling. That body of evidence is clearly more than just your opinion.