WICCI submits report to Governor Tony Evers' Task Force on Climate Change

November 6, 2020

The Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts (WICCI), led by the UW-Madison Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR), recently submitted a report to Governor Tony Evers' Task Force on Climate Change detailing the current and projected impact of climate change on Wisconsin.

This report is a result of Executive Order #52, which was created to aid Wisconsin policymakers in understanding the impacts of climate change as well as science-based solutions. The results of this report as well as input from the community engagement sessions held during the past few months, will be shared with the Governor this November. Additionally, WICCI will utilize this report to update their 2011 climate assessment report, Wisconsin’s Changing Climate, which is set for release in summer 2021.

The recent report submitted to the Governor outlines the ways in which climate change is impacting Wisconsin. In general, over the past ten years, the WICCI team’s research shows that seasonal temperature, precipitation, and extreme climatic events have all increased and are in line with projections made in the 2011 WICCI report. In particular, the data shows that Wisconsin has become 2.1 degrees Fahrenheit warmer since the 1950s and that Wisconsin’s annual precipitation has increased by about 4.5 inches, or about 15 percent.

 “Our analysis underscores that climate change is happening now,” said Steve Vavrus, co-director of WICCI and a senior scientist at the Nelson Institute Center for Climatic Research (CCR). “The effects are already being felt by citizens, businesses, and ecosystems across the state.”

Additionally, the report outlines projections for future climate change impacts. In particular, the WICCI projections estimate that Wisconsin will warm by 2.5-7.5 degrees Fahrenheit by 2050, with the number of extremely hot days (above 90 degrees Fahrenheit) set to triple. Likewise, annual mean rainfall is also expected to increase by perhaps as much as 15 percent.

With these statistics in mind, the WICCI working groups developed recommendations to aid policymakers in mitigating and potentially addressing the challenges that may result from increased temperature and rainfall. The WICCI working groups focused on the three Task Force committee themes: 1) energy, housing, and infrastructure 2) healthy communities and strong economies and 3) land use and conservation. The document submitted to the governor includes a full report covering each of these themes.   

In addition to the report, WICCI also launched a new website this past summer which provides the public and policymakers with access to scientific information on climate change. The website also includes updates and information on the working groups led by WICCI, which focus on how climate change is impacting areas such as wildlife, human health, the Great Lakes, and more.  

Vavrus said, “WICCI’s report to the Governor’s Task Force is an example of how our best estimates of future climate can be used to guide decisions at the state and local levels to protect Wisconsin’s economy, natural resources, and human health, and to promote social and environmental justice.”

Photo: Jeff Miller / UW-Madison