Awake in the night, I hear the rattle of sleet and rain against the bedroom windows. My hopes for snow are dashed again.
For anyone who loves winter, as I do, such hopes are ill advised, a setup for disappointment given the prospects for warmer winters outlined in the state’s definitive report on climate change.
According to the Wisconsin initiative on Climate Change Impacts, “Wisconsin’s future warming is projected to be greatest during winter, with increases of 5 to 11 degrees Fahrenheit by the mid-21st century. The largest increase is expected in northwestern Wisconsin. Overall, Wisconsin winters will be milder and shorter by an average of four weeks, with annual snowfall likely to decline by about 14 inches per year.”
That does not bode well for cross country skiing, snowmobiling and other snowy pursuits.
Sharon Dunwoody, professor emerita of journalism and mass communication at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, says that when a complicated issue such as climate change becomes personal, people are moved to seek information about it.
“Knowing about a risk is helpful, of course, but how scared we are is what makes us act,” said Dunwoody in a news release posted on the WICCI website. She studies public understanding of science topics.
For David Liebel, co-chair of WICCI, the personal connection is stormwater management, which he teaches at UW. He said that WICCI is working on an update to the 2011 report with, for example, updates on the impacts of extreme rainfall on different parts of Wisconsin.
The update also will have more to say about the impact on agriculture, another “personal” connection for anyone who eats.
WICCI report says, “Wisconsin is likely to become a much warmer state over the next few decades, with average temperatures more like those currently experienced in states hundreds of miles to our south.”
So we all have a personal stake in what kind of world we will inhabit in the decades ahead. And we all have a stake in what’s taking place this week in Paris as world leaders try to come to grips with the world’s production of greenhouse gasses that are warming the planet.
We can take personal actions to reduce our so-called carbon footprint such as turning out lights when we leave the room, improving insulation in our homes and other energy conserving measures. But to curb future dramatic changes in the climate will require the kinds of international and national commitments being considered in Paris.
Since the United States is a major contributor to the carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to warming, it is vital that President Barack Obama’s plans to reduce emissions receive political backing to achieve the commitments the U.S. makes in Paris.
Given the political divisions on the issue, that will be a tough go. Wisconsin lacks leadership on the climate change issue. Gov. Scott Walker has added Wisconsin to a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency limits on carbon emissions from power plants. And in 2013 he signed an Americans for Prosperity pledge promising to oppose any tax or fee increases aimed at fighting climate change.
Letters to the governor and other political leaders urging their support on emissions reduction is another way that all of us can respond given our personal stake in the issue of Wisconsin’s future climate.
The progress on an agreement in Paris gives me some hope that, after decades of delay on the issue, we may save some vestige of the world as we know it for succeeding generations. Maybe my great, great, great, great grandchildren will know the delight of a snowfall after all.Dave Skoloda is an award-winning journalist and former owner and editor of the Onalaska Community Life and Holmen Courier.