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Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2008

Global Warming Hits Home

A new report shows what Wisconsin can do

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Gov. Jim Doyle has convened a Global Warming Task Force and the state Legislature is debating whether to place limits on the emissions of greenhouse gases, which contribute to global warming. But which specific steps can Wisconsin take to reduce its role in global warming? A new report released by Wisconsin Environment Research & Policy Center offers a few suggestions. The authors argue that putting the report’s 13 strategies into action would cut the state’s emissions of carbon dioxide by 30% below projected levels by 2020 and therefore reduce our contribution to global warming.

The bill pending in the state Legislature, the Wisconsin Safe Climate Act (Senate Bill 81), would reduce statewide greenhouse gas emissions to their 1990 levels by 2020. It requires the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to identify how that could be done; no specific steps are offered in the bill.

But Dan Kohler, of Wisconsin Environment, told reporters last week that the new report’s recommendations “are one way the state could meet those reduction levels.” The strategies include:

  • Adopt the Clean Cars Program, which encourages use of hybrid-electric vehicles
  • Require energy-saving replacement tires, which would improve vehicle efficiency
  • Create mileage-based auto insurance, which would encourage people to drive less
  • Require large employers to develop commuter programs for their employees
  • Invest in mass transit
  • Adopt a low-carbon standard for fuels
  • Strengthen building codes to reduce energy use
  • Adopt appliance efficiency standards
  • Increase investments in energy efficiency to reduce electricity and natural gas use
  • Encourage combined heat and power technology, which allows large facilities to use the same energy to generate electricity and heat
  • Strengthen the renewable electricity standard to require that 20% of electricity comes from renewable sources by 2020
  • Prevent the expansion of coal-fired power plants
  • Reduce energy use in government buildings, get 20% of state facilities’ electricity from renewable sources by 2015 and reduce emissions from vehicles by 30%

Kohler argued that preserving the state’s climate is not only vital to our health and well-being, but also to the economy of Wisconsin. The shrinking of the Great Lakes and the rise in air and water temperatures could dry up wetlands and the habitats for 120 species of fish. The higher temperatures could imperil the state’s dairy industry and agricultural sector. The report notes that Wisconsin is in danger of losing balsam fir, paper birch, white spruce, jack pine and red pine trees because their natural growing climate will shift north. The loss of these trees could contribute to the decline of the state’s forestry and tourist industries, which generate $30 billion in the state each year.

To read the report, go to www.wisconsinenvironment.org. What’s your take? Write: editor@shepex.com.