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Annika Mersmann of Viroqua unfurls a timeline showing how global temperatures have risen since 20,000 BC.

About 10 La Crosse residents, many of them college students, gathered to support the Green New Deal on Friday morning in the lobby of U.S. Rep. Ron Kind’s office in downtown La Crosse.

The deal, which was unveiled Thursday as a resolution in the House of Representative by two Democratic legislators, calls for the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy within a decade and the creation of fair and equitable green energy jobs. A price tag has not been attached to the plan.

More than 600 groups across the country have petitioned their legislators in support of the deal.

“From 20,000 B.C. to now, life was always sustainable,” said Annika Mersmann of Viroqua, who organized the local petition. “Every species worked towards contributing to the balance. Now we’re the one going totally off balance, not even making a change when we know what we’re doing.”

Mersmann brought an XKCD cartoon charting global temperatures going back to 20,000 BC, printed across five sheets of 8-inch-by-14-inch paper, which she presented to Loren Kannenberg, Kind’s 3rd District director. The chart shows a gradual overall rise in temperature until the end of the 20th century, when temperatures veer sharply toward a one-degree increase above the global average.

International climate scientists reported in 2018 that global averages have risen by more than one degree and a concerted effort is needed to keep global temperatures below a catastrophic 1.5 degree increase.

“This generation and the past, we’re determining the path of this planet for all the species,” Mersmann said.

“I will carry your message to the congressman,” Kannenberg said, as Kind was in Washington, D.C., this week.

The Green New Deal is a framework that treats clean energy solutions to mitigate climate change as an economic opportunity. The name harkens back to government mobilization during the Great Depression.

The plan would build resilience against climate-related disasters, support sustainable farms and food systems, electrify the transportation sector, and provide universal health care. Exact details have not been worked out.

Unlike its predecessor, the Green New Deal would ensure that groups and communities excluded from the original New Deal, including indigenous communities, people of color, rural communities, women, children, the poor, the elderly, and people with disabilities, are not left behind, according to its text.

The deal grew from the Sunrise Movement, an organization of young people on a mission to “stop climate change and create millions of good jobs in the process.” It gained momentum after a newly elected Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez joined Sunrise supporters for a sit-in in then-House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s office.

Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass, unveiled the Green New Deal on Thursday in Washington.

It stands in stark juxtaposition to President Donald Trump’s stance on energy. During the State of the Union address this week, Trump praised America’s dominance as the world’s top fossil fuel exporter and did not mention climate change, which he calls a hoax.

The next day, NASA and NOAA announced that 2018 was the fourth-warmest year on record, behind 2016, 2015, and 2017. Greenhouse gas emissions that fuel global warming rose sharply in 2018, by 3.4 percent, reversing a three-year downturn, according to the Rhodium group.

The plan, which is nonbinding, would face opposition in the Republican-controlled Senate and White House.

It leaves out some strategies for reducing greenhouse gases, including a carbon tax and cap-and-trade program, and has also has been critiqued for its ambitious timeline.

“I’m afraid I just cannot see how we could possibly go to zero carbon in a 10-year time frame,” former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz told NPR on “All Things Considered.”

Burke&Despins

UW-L seniors Erin Burke, left, and Marissa Despins petitioned U.S. Rep. Ron Kind to support the Green New Deal. 

Many of those in La Crosse who came out to support the Green New Deal said they they did so because climate change is their present and future.

“We care because in 50 years, we’re still going to be here. We’re the ones that will have to deal with the repercussions,” said Marissa Despins, a senior at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse majoring in biology. Despins kept an eye on the clock. Her next class for the day, on global warming, was at 11 a.m.

Erin Burke, also a UW-L senior majoring in biology, spent a summer in Alaska studying spruce bark beetles. She got a firsthand look at how climate change sped up the beetle’s reproductive cycle, allowing it to devastate forests at an unprecedented pace.

And climate change isn’t only something that happens elsewhere, like Alaska or along the coasts. “Even now, with the polar vortex, scientists are starting to link those changes to climate change,” Burke said.

“Because of climate change and our land use, there are way more floods with more water where the water just runs right off,” Despins added.

Avery Van Gaard, who works for Coulee Region Ecoscapes, a sustainable landscaping company, said the plan was not only crucial for averting the worst climate change impacts, but also a way to invest in renewable energy produced locally.

“There’s a whole industry, right?” Van Gaard said. “It’s excellent for the economy, so why wouldn’t you?”

“We have 10 years left to figure this out,” Van Gaard said. “I feel like we’ve got to the point where everyone else isn’t going to do anything about this; I have to do something about this.”

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Jennifer Lu is the La Crosse Tribune environmental reporter. You can reach her by phone at 608-791-8217 and by email jennifer.lu@lee.net.

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Environmental reporter

(5) comments

JanetteDean

Very proud and grateful to these constituents of Rep. Ron Kind who are asking him to support the much-needed and long-overdue Green New Deal resolution! As a frequent La Crosse visitor from nearby Minnesota, I am encouraging all of our Midwestern legislators in our federal government to use the important goals of the Green New Deal resolution to create all the types of legislation we desperately need to adequately tackle global warming in fair and just economic ways. We must to become a far more responsible country for all generations national and worldwide. Market solutions with primarily profit motives at the forefront are not nearly enough and have, indisputably, long delayed many of the solutions we should have implemented long ago including renewable energy across all sectors and sustainable practices. A livable climate and inhabitable planet isn't a luxury or nicety, it is essential and necessary for all earthly life, including human beings. There's no more time for baby steps; instead, we need mass mobilization to implement great solutions everywhere including right here in the U.S., of course. Our country has been negligently emitting an extremely large share of the HISTORICAL and ongoing emissions that the entire world is currently suffering from. Our poor leadership example and our multinational corporations have also unethically encouraged other countries to emit lots of greenhouse gases as well in an increasingly vicious circle of earth and ecosystems destruction. Speak up and act now -or- forever hold the peace of countless life generations including many of your own. Step up and take pride in being able, as an important human being in this day and age, to share, contribute to and support the solutions needed to rescue our Holocene epoch of the last 12,000 years that has allowed us and our fellow animal and plant species to thrive and flourish in such a beautiful and comfortable time on our planet. We simply can't let it come to a rapid end due to the irresponsible parts of humanity's industrialization on the planet. A mean global surface temperature of 14 degrees Celsius has served us very well, and a 1 degree temperature change is already wreaking havoc in many ways across the planet. Imagine what a 2-6 degree temperature change could unleash for our modern world when the average is 14? It won't be pretty and probably won't be survivable for most life forms. I want to stop the Sixth Mass Extinction and I ask all my fellow American and people worldwide to do the same by voting for legislators who will help and not hinder progress on timely and effective solutions now - not never, not later!

Redwall

From the looks of it, Kind's office was closed. Better call ahead next time. But thanks for playing.

Redwall

I'll give the students credit for venturing out of their safe spaces and enduring the sub-zero cold to confront global warming. But the one fellow in the picture is old enough to know better.

DMoney

That's probably oldhomey....

DMoney

The title of this article is beyond misleading. Should have been "10 Students from LaCrosse with a Printed Graph Show Up at Ron Kinds office and Speak to Assistant" or something similar. Sounds like another hypothetical idea with no plan to get there.

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