Observed Climate Change in Wisconsin

Written by SPPI


July 28, 2008
Science and Public Policy Institute


In April 2007, Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle signed Executive Order 191 creating the Governor’s Task Force on Global Warming and tasked it with developing a plan of action to reduce Wisconsin’s greenhouse gas emissions. Citing that “the failure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions could raise Wisconsin temperatures, increase the severity of droughts, further reduce water levels in Lake Michigan, destroy wetlands, harm croplands and forests, and harm public health, among other damaging effects,” the Governor defined the Task Force’s mission as:

Present viable, actionable policy recommendations to the Governor to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Wisconsin and make Wisconsin a leader in implementation of global warming solutions; and Advise the Governor on ongoing opportunities to address global warming locally while growing our state's economy, creating new jobs, and utilizing an appropriate mix of fuels and technologies in Wisconsin's energy and transportation portfolios; and Identify specific short term and long term goals for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions in Wisconsin that are, at a minimum consistent with the Wisconsin's proportionate share of the reductions that are needed to occur worldwide to minimize the impacts of global warming;

Conspicuously missing from the Task Force’s objectives, however, are three major areas of importance:
1) a careful review of the state’s climate history and its impacts with regard to how the state’s climate has changed and whether or not the changes bear any resemblance of changes expected from human-caused “global warming,”
2) a quantification of the impacts of the state’s emissions reductions efforts on the course of future climate change, either globally, regionally, or locally, and
3) an assessment of the impacts of any proposed greenhouse gas reduction measures on the state’s economy.

In this report, we provide the analyses that should have been required of the Task Force. We find that there has been little “global warming”-related change to Wisconsin’s climate and what changes have occurred have been well adapted to by its residents. We demonstrate how fruitless any efforts at greenhouse emissions limitations will be on the climate. In fact, we find that even a complete cessation of all carbon dioxide emissions originating in Wisconsin would be subsumed by global greenhouse gas emissions increases (primarily from China and India) in only six week’s time and would produce no detectable or scientifically meaningful impact on local, regional, or global climate. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the economic consequences of greenhouse gas emissions’ legislation—they have been recently estimated to be large, and negative, for the citizens of Wisconsin.

Full Report with graphs, illustrations and supporting references and documentation:
Observed climate change in Wisconsin

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