It is great to see Wisconsin acting to combat climate change and increasing protection of our shared environment based upon sound science, not who puts dirty energy money into campaign coffers.
Gov. Tony Evers recently signed an executive order setting a goal for our state to transition to 100% carbon-free electricity by 2050. He established an Office of Sustainability and Clean Energy to oversee the effort. These actions set a tone for state action on the issue of climate change and promoting the use of clean energy. They deserve full legislative support and funding to put science back into the policy-making agencies that support the effort.
These actions are important because Wisconsin’s climate is changing just like the rest of the world, fossil fuelfunded climate-change deniers notwithstanding. We’ve seen increasing temperatures year after year. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration just announced that this past July was the hottest ever recorded worldwide. The Great Lakes are getting warmer and causing heavier rainfalls and increased flooding. Storms and wildfires streak across the land with increasing strength and damage. Milwaukee’s Metropolitan Sewerage District was forced to allow five sewerage overflows into the Milwaukee River and Lake Michigan in just three months this year. The district is only allowed to have six during any given year. Wisconsin farmers had to delay planting this spring due to heavierthan- normal rains. Our lakes are experiencing unprecedented algae blooms, leading to beach closures across the state.
Some see Evers’ deadline as too far into the future. A new wave of young climate activists is pushing for a 100% clean energy transition by 2030, 20 years sooner than Evers’ deadline. These young people see their futures imperiled by climate change and
are demanding changes sooner so their planet remains habitable.
On another front, Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul recently joined a coalition of 22 other states, seven local governments and several environmental groups that recently announced a lawsuit against the Trump administration’s Environmental Protection Agency over its new ACE, or “Dirty Power” rule.
The ACE rule replaced the Clean Power Plan which imposed the first nationwide limits on one of the largest sources of climate change pollution, existing fossil-fuelburning power plants. The EPA’s new rule rolls back these limits, freeing plants to continue burning expensive and polluting coal. It also adds restrictions on state efforts to move to clean renewable and affordable generation of electricity.
In a press release, Attorney General Kaul noted that “climate change is not only real; it is a crisis. We’re only beginning to see its effects, including severe flooding and extreme temperatures. We can’t afford to wait for 20 years or a decade to take meaningful action. We need to step up now and to start responding to the climate crisis like our kids’ future depends on it — because it does.”
The new EPA ACE rule barely mentions climate change and ignores the science that proves we have a looming climate crisis. It disregards the requirements of the Clean Air Act requiring limits on air pollutants through best practices like cap-and-trade programs that have proven effective in reducing power plant emissions of climate changing pollutants. The new rule actually prohibits states from participating in cap-and-trade programs. Instead, the Trump EPA proposes utility equipment upgrades that will reduce emissions by only 0.7 percent by 2030 as opposed to having no rule at all. The EPA’s own analysis of the new rule’s impact
on polluting emissions shows it will cost more in economic damage and significantly increase power plant burdens on air quality.
It is clear that fossil-fuel money drives the Trump climate- change-denial train and brought us this new effort to revitalize a dying industry. Wisconsin legislators would do well to jump off that train at the next station and support Wisconsin and national efforts to take climate change seriously. We need new laws promoting renewable energy generation and pollution reduction strategies. We need to remove the surcharge for registering hybrid electric vehicles. We need more energy-efficient mass transit. We need more energy-efficiency regulations that lower home heating and cooling costs.
We all live on this planet and cannot bury our heads in the coal ash any longer. We have no Planet B and need to take substantial steps to correct the errors from the last century of industrial progress by transitioning to renewable and sustainable energy systems that will help restore clean air and water which we all need for survival.
(Waring Fincke is a retired attorney and serves as a guardian for the elderly and disabled for a Sheboygan County nonprofit agency.)
Wisconsin’s climate is changing just like the rest of the world, fossil fuel-funded climate-change deniers notwithstanding.