Is climate change affecting me today? Absolutely, though most farmers call it “unpredictable weather”. The weather has always been unpredictable, but there is no question, it's really become weirder than ever. Year after year the weather has become wetter and wetter. This year I was unable to plant 85 acres because the ground was too wet and too cool. 85 acres! I've been farming here my whole life and have never seen anything like this. The best crop I'll have this year is gray hair.
Field erosion has become a huge problem because of all the downpours we have now. It used to be we'd get a two inch rainfall once a year, something we'd talk about for months. Now it's almost a weekly thing. I've got deep gullies all over my fields. I can tell you that the townships and counties are struggling to maintain their roads from all the water damage. The roads in some areas are really in bad shape.
Making hay is a real hassle despite improving harvest technology. First crop was stunted and poor from all the cool, rainy weather. I'm having serious problems from winter kill because my fields are thawing and freezing throughout the winter.
And raising calves has really become a serious problem. We keep them outside in the winter because it's always been a healthy thing to do. But they need to stay dry. Now we get rain in the winter, and the ground gets muddy and that is very hard on them so I have to build a big barn to keep them in. Expensive.
I don't know what's happened to the winds, they've gotten so fierce they are flattening my crops and making them impossible to harvest.
People who work indoors might not notice climate change but I tell you, go talk to the farmers, the loggers who can't even get into the woods in the winter anymore because the ground thaws and the frost is to shallow to hold up their machinery, go talk to the construction workers.
Climate change is real, it's costly and it's happening right here on the farm.
Hans Breitenmoser Wisconsin farmer & Lincoln County Board Member WI 7th Congressional District
Climate Change has arrived at our farm. We’ve had three 100 year floods here in the last nine years. I’m thinking about getting flood insurance but it is very expensive- about $700 per year. We’ve been here for 22 years. Our farm had a little, four foot wide creek when we first moved in. It was two feet deep with gentle, grassy banks and a sandy bottom. Now, after three floods it is four feet deep, ten feet wide in spots with six foot banks and a boulder strewn bottom. It’s more like a small river now. I have to be very careful when I mow the path alongside it. It’s just not the same. We await the next flood to see what it will do to our once sweet, little creek.
Ellis Felker Muscoda, Wisconsin 3rd Congressional District
When I was 5 years old, my 16-year-old brother taught me how to fish. I have enjoyed fishing nearly all my life. Like most other fishers, I enjoy catching cool water sportfish, such as walleyes, far more than catching warm water non-sportfish, such as channel catfish. But over the past 21 years that I have fished from the end of my dock, the fishing of Lake DuBay has gradually shifted from mostly cool water sportfish to mostly warm water non-sportfish. In the late 1990s, I caught mostly walleyes during my favorite fishing months, May and June. In recent years, there has been a significant change, in May and June, away from mostly walleyes to warm water species like channel catfish, rock bass, and carp. I have not changed my fishing methods, such as fishing depth, bait, location, etc., but global warming has significantly changed my results. My grandchildren love to fish when they visit us from their home in Minnesota. I had no grandchildren when Lake DuBay was a cool water fishery. I wish so much that they could enjoy the consistently great walleye fishing I had 20 years ago that is gone today primarily due to the warming of Lake DuBay. I also enjoy stream fishing for a native fish of Wisconsin, the brook trout. Over a period of decades, many streams that supported "brookies" (as we fondly call these beautiful fish) are struggling to support their populations. A number of factors have contributed to the decline of brookies in Wisconsin, including water pollution, overexploitation of groundwater causing extreme changes in stream water levels, and global warming. Scientific studies have estimated that many or most brook trout streams in Wisconsin will no longer support brookies by 2100. In fact, the worst of three possible scenarios in those studies estimates that over 99% of brook trout streams will lose their brook trout by 2100 primarily due to global warming. Brook trout are most vulnerable to warming stream temperatures during spawning. Their eggs and embryos require cool water temperatures that, over decades, are gradually disappearing in many Wisconsin streams. If native brook trout disappear from Wisconsin streams this century, it will a great loss to current and future generations of fishers who admire their incredible beauty.
Ned Grossnickle Wausau, WI 6th Congressional District
I have lived on Shell Lake for over twenty-five years. Shell Lake is/was a walleye lake, in fact, has a large two-tailed plastic walleye monument in the city lake park that can be viewed by all passing along Hwy 63. I often would fish off my dock, early morning the early evening for walleye. I am not a super fisherman, but I would catch a few back in the 90's and 00's. I haven't caught a walleye off my dock in several years, I now catch bass, a warmer water fish. Could this be a consequence of climate change?
Michael Pesko Shell Lake, WI 7th Congressional District
We were at the Potosi Brewery recently, a brewery operating since pre-Civil War in a building in Potosi, WI. In the Driftless Area, Potosi is nestled in a long valley on either side of the only road through the town because of the narrowness of the floor of the valley. There are no cross streets in the entire town. The residents in fact claim that their town is the longest town in the nation (3 miles) without a stoplight. Adjacent to the road is a small intermittent stream which drains the 3-mile-long valley after rainstorms.
The brewery floor is about 8' higher than the normal level of the little stream, and has never been flooded since being constructed in the 1850s. Until the last 15 years. In that time, the town has had three 500-year rain events, flooding the brewery each time.
Gary Peterson Rice Lake, Wisconsin 7th Congressional District
Climate change occurs when a city or region is altered from its average weather. Climate change can impact an area in multiple ways, including temperature or precipitation. Wisconsin has been undergoing severe flooding over the course of the last year. These floods have been creating mudslides and shutting roads, which has been causing havoc. The majority of regions affected are located southwestern and west central parts of the state. Although there were no significant floods or mudslides in my community, the water level is increasing quite rapidly.
Over the past two summers I noticed an explicit difference in the water level in my area. I live in Marinette, Wisconsin located right along Green Bay which is a major bay of Lake Michigan. I am fortunate that my house and backyard is right on the bay. I have only experienced positive results with the higher water level.
I am 18 years old and have lived on the bay my entire life. For as long as I can remember, the bay has always been shallow and roughly 200-300 feet from the edge of my backyard. In between the edge of my property and the start of the water lie sludge, weeds, and an unpleasant smell.
Slowly over the last two years the water has risen all the way to the edge of my backyard. After cleaning up all the debris that washed in, including a big portion of invasive weeds and cattail, it truly is a terrific view to wake up to every morning.
It is a brand new habitat that I witnessed this past summer. I see multiple painted turtles on logs on a daily basis. I had never seen any turtles in my life anywhere near my neighborhood. Fish, including carp, dogfish, and bluegill are all species I can see in the water that come right up on shore.
Recreational benefit is another huge factor why the water rising is a good impact. With the water being closer to shore, it is easier to dock a jet ski or perhaps a sailboat, which is what a majority of my neighbors recently did. My neighborhood put up a dock two summers ago that is now widely used. Before the dock, I never saw one of my neighbors go in the bay. The new dock also made my area more sociable. I have met many of my new neighbors because they were out on the dock; before that, I met very few of them.
As the bay rose, there have been notable changes in habitat growth, recreational use, and a more sociable neighborhood in my immediate area. The invasive species are close to gone and it is also a much nicer view. I am very happy this climate change has impacted my area in the way it did.
James Jagielski Marinette, WI 8th Congressional District
I have lived most of my 64 years in Birchwood, growing up and going to school during the 1960s and ‘70s, and I have experienced first-hand, a shift in the climate of our northern Wisconsin paradise. Back then, it was common to have summer highs mostly in the 70s, occasionally into the low 80s. But never did we ever have a 100-degree day. All that changed in 1988, a year seared into my memory. That summer was the longest, driest, hottest year that I had experienced to date. We broke a number of the record highs set back in the 1930s, with temperatures topping 100 degrees. The consequence of those hot summer months for our resort was the need for air conditioning. We began adding A/C units in all the cottages. Besides the cost of A/C units for all 21 cottages, our electric bills are of course much higher. But during those years when our summers were warming up, so were our winters. When I was in grade school, we could also count on snow-lots of snow. Our family enjoyed long seasons of downhill skiing-November thru March. We spent most weekends at the local ski area, being outdoors and making fond memories together. (This was also good for the local economy.) Sadly, the skiing season has shrunk by several months and ski areas now need to rely on snowmaking equipment if they want to be in business (another expense). Same with snowmobiling—trails opening later and closing earlier, because of too much rain and warm temperatures. Our family can hardly find may opportunities anymore to get out and experience the joy of a ride through the snowy woods the way we used to. And for the many businesses that counted on those snowmobile customers, the lack of snow is a huge hit for them. Our non-winters of late have done more to hurt the economy of northern Wisconsin than anything else. Other negative effects of warmer summers, and shorter, warmer winters are ticks and invading insect species. As a child, my friends and I spent lots of time playing in the woods. And yes, usually came home with wood ticks. But this was not a health threat. Not so anymore. Now the spread of tiny ‘deer ticks’ and the diseases they carry are a steadily increasing risk. No longer do we encourage our children or grandchildren to play in the woods the way we used to. This proliferation of ticks and diseases is due mainly to shorter and warmer winters. I wish younger generations could experience what we did, exploring in the woods without fear of life-threatening illnesses. In addition to ticks, harmful invasive insects are moving steadily northward, devouring plants and crops on their way. My most feared insect enemy, the Japanese Beetle, has finally appeared in my garden. Up until 3 years ago, these pests were kept at bay by long, cold winters with weeks of sub-zero temperatures, like we used to have. Now I go on ‘beetle patrol’ every day, trying to kill as many as I can, hoping to keep their numbers in check. But I know it will be a losing battle… It is obvious to me that our climate is changing. Our average temperatures are different--warmer than before. Our precipitation is different--thunderstorms when we should be having snow storms; record rainfalls or extended droughts. The climate is no longer dependable, the weather harder to predict. All of this adds up to losses-loss of winter activities and income for businesses; loss of opportunities to hike the forests without fear of ticks; losses in agriculture and timber due to invading insects, floods and droughts; loss of property and infrastructure to increased flooding and winds; and the list goes on…. The only way to stop the bleeding is to halt global warming and reverse the changing climate. And the best and fastest way to do that is with a carbon fee and dividend bill passed by Congress NOW.
Linda Herscher Birchwood, WI 7th Congressional District
This past April I was sitting with my Mom on her back porch in Watertown when she casually remarked: “Look at that Crabapple tree… you know, it used to bloom every May right around your brother’s birthday on the 19th and now it blooms a whole month earlier” I thought to myself… Climate Changed.
Jill & Susan McNaughton Watertown, WI 5th Congressional District
"In the Midwest, winter is dying. It’s fading away gradually, much as my dad did in the years following his Alzheimer’s diagnosis. During our long farewell, I was very conscious of soaking up my father’s presence, well aware that he would soon be gone. Permanently. Nowadays I do something similar when I put on my cross-country skis and head for snowy trails—I soak up the essence of winter, savoring each fleeting moment. Back when my 45-year-old wooden skis were new, I could count on the first snowfall in early December and almost continuous snow cover until the spring thaw. It’s January now and, sadly, I’ve skied just a few times. Wisconsin winter temperatures are regularly above freezing, and today a steady drizzle is melting snowdrifts and uncovering green grass on ski slopes and snowmobile trails. Many of my neighbors are thrilled that winters are warmer than they used to be. I enjoy an unseasonably warm winter day, too, but long term worldwide warming is a fatal diagnosis for the human habitat and infrastructure that depend on predictable seasons. We need winter. Without a deep freeze, damaging insects and pathogens survive in farmers’ fields to wreak havoc during the growing season. Low temperatures give trees a crucial rest by temporarily halting their growth, while unseasonably balmy weather causes trees to blossom too early, causing a disaster for fruit growers when temperatures dip below freezing. Unpredictable and disruptive temperature swings are becoming more frequent because of climate change. Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease that disrupts brain function, though it is at first barely noticeable. My dad’s early struggles with managing his budget or locating my brother’s nearby home were easy to miss. Similarly, few noticed when the burning of fossil fuels began to heat up earth’s atmosphere during the industrial revolution. The signs were subtle. Lakes began to freeze a little later, migratory birds arrived a little earlier. More than a century later, the signs of a warming world are obvious. We can’t help but notice disappearing glaciers, deadly drought and damaging fires, more record-breaking storms and more extreme heat, and the expansion of disease and pests. Yet full-blown denial of our planetary decline is commonplace. It was easy to explain away my father’s worrisome symptoms when I feared the worst, and it was wise to get a second opinion when a doctor delivered the bad news. But would I have ignored the opinions of 97 doctors if just three doctors disagreed with his unwelcome diagnosis? According to NASA, 97 percent or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree: Climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities. Yet willful denial remains so stubborn that recently climate change language was scrubbed from State of Wisconsin web pages, implying a lack of consensus that humans and greenhouse gases are the main cause of global warming. No amount of denial will change the reality that cascading climate events threaten to undo us. The arctic is warming rapidly because of a powerful feedback loop—when more ice melts, more solar radiation raises surface temperatures and causes even more ice to melt, raising surface temperatures more, and so on. The brightest minds cannot predict exactly when it will happen, but former NASA researcher James Hansen warns us that our great coastal cities will be inundated by a sea level rise between 1 and 4 feet by 2100. Inland, we will be inundated with climate refugees who have to relocate from their low-lying homes. The irreversible progression of Alzheimer’s disease begins slowly and then accelerates in the final years and months. My father eventually lost his life, but not before he slowly lost everything else—the ability to walk, talk, feed himself, speak, smile, even swallow. The best minds could not predict the exact moment of his death or what the exact cause would be, but doctors could accurately predict that a cascading series of health events would be fatal. If I knew of a way to halt my dad’s slide, believe me, I would have acted to avoid the day when he did not even recognize me. Earth’s vital signs indicate that we are in an accelerating, fatal slide. If we act urgently, we can dramatically reduce our carbon emissions, slow global warming, and leave a healthier, safer world to our children. A cascade of positive effects can still turn things around. Cleaner sources of energy are becoming more competitive. The accelerating switch to solar and wind power has already created millions of new jobs. Many more can be created if we make it a national priority to repair leaky natural gas pipelines, build public transportation, and increase energy-efficiency in all sectors. Congress and our new President can lead the way, expanding on America’s commitment to the historic Paris Agreement that united the world to fight carbon pollution — or America can be left behind in the dust of dirty energy. When I heard the words, “Alzheimer’s disease,” I was devastated because I fully understood it meant the inevitable loss of an irreplaceable dad. When you hear the world’s best experts say, “Climate change” I hope you fully understand that your irreplaceable planet desperately needs a wellness program. My dad loved to ski. If he were still here, he would beg us to save winter.
Carrie Scherpelz Madison, WI 2nd Congressional District
Last January, I had the joy of taking my 3 year old daughter ice skating for the first time. I was thrilled. I grew up loving winter. My family hosted an annual sledding party, at which a dozen of our extended family members crammed into our modest house, snow boots and pants and jackets piled high around the wood stove, rivaling the snow drifts piled outside.
As we grew up, we shifted from the sledding hill to ski resorts, not just for our family get together, but regular excursions to different local resorts with college friends, sampling mom-and-pop motels, and local establishments. When I moved to Madison nearly ten years ago, I took up ice skating and pond hockey, and currently live within walking distance of a small outdoor neighborhood rink.
A couple weeks after my daughter's first ice skating outing, she asked if we could go again. It was special to her and to me, an outdoor daddy-daughter bond. Unfortunately, it was 60 degrees in the middle of February, and I had to tell her no, we couldn't go, and we probably could not go again for almost an entire year.
How do I explain to my three-year-old daughter that winter is disappearing? Last year was not an anomaly. Wisconsin has one of the longest running sets of data on lake ice coverage in the world, dating back to the mid-1800s. And the data are clear: ice is forming later and melting earlier than at any point in our state's 150 year history.
Everywhere I look, the stories are the same. Snowmobiles stuck on trailers with trails muddy and closed. Ski resorts struggling to stay open, advertising spring skiing in the dead of February. Ice fishermen trying to enjoy the few weekends a year with good, safe ice.
To be sure, not every winter is warm and short, and there will always be anomalies, like the winter of 2013-2014 during which “polar vortex” became a household word. But these are the exception and not the norm, and any sane businessman, investor, or father would not make economic invests necessitating cold weather. I'd love to buy my daughter skis and snowshoes, but I already don't use mine enough to justify the purchase. Unfortunately, the local ski shops, mom and pop motels, and local restaurants don't have the luxury of opting out of the winter economy. They are already all in. And if climate trends and current policy continues, many will have no choice except to fold.
There is more than my daughter's desire to go skating on a pond at stake. The livelihoods of thousands of small businesses are at stake. Wisconsin identity and culture are at stake, whether its ice fishing, snowmobiling or the Birkebeiner.
For good or ill, the future of winter is not in our hands. It's in yours. We need strong, pragmatic, fair, and effective national policies to slow and even reverse the loss of the winter economy and culture. Please consider a market-based, revenue neutral carbon fee and dividend proposal. A generation from now, when my grandchildren ask me if they can go ice skating, perhaps I can say yes.
Ryan O’Connor Madison, WI 2nd Congressional District
Today I wanted to tell you about some of the ways that climate change is affecting me. I am a lover of the great Wisconsin outdoors. My favorite pastime is getting out into the forests and prairies in Wisconsin. And in the winter I really enjoy skiing. I generally just enjoy being outside and in nature though, regardless of the activity. And I can already feel the effects of climate change on these pasttimes. There is substantially less snow in southern Wisconsin than when I was growing up, for example. Winter isn’t as cold. And this trend will only continue if we don’t take action. Science strongly suggests that some of the wildlife and plant life that I enjoy outdoors will struggle as well, as the climate warms and ecosystems change….And these are the just the near-term changes, to say nothing of what the great outdoors could be like here in the long term.
But these issues are not anywhere near as important to me as my primary concern with climate change: my children’s future. I have two girls, a six-year old and an eight-year old. I’ve tried explaining climate change to them. My older daughter understands what I’m saying to some extent, but doesn’t appreciate the full ramifications. I find it very difficult to go on and explain all of those details and ramifications to her. Its hard for me to say it out loud because the actions that our current generations are taking (or those actions that we are NOT taking) are simply notfair to them. And that’s a terrible thing, when we leave a world that is worse off for our children simply because we want to experience a little bit more economic growth ourselves. And here I’m not primarily concerned with their ability to ski* someday or enjoy the outdoors.
Instead, my main concern is the substantial humanitarian and economic burden that we are placing on our children. We are responsible for this burden because we ignore the scientific consensus around climate change. We ignore this consensus because many deem it too costly to deal with. But by all of our best estimates, it is much more costly to do nothing and deal with climate change later. The infrastructure that will be needed to deal with sea level rise, ocean acidification, rapid ecosystem change, human migration, droughts and floods, and extreme heat waves will be staggering. Those economists that have carefully studied these costs overwhelmingly agree its cheaper to prevent these things than solve them later. But we do not. Or at least so far have not, because we choose to be shortsighted, more concerned with our own needs than those of the next generations.
This type of denial is possibly an expected part of human nature. And certainly not every citizen can be fully informed about all these dangers that climate change poses. This is the type of situation where policy, and more importantly leadership, are badly needed. Our leaders are informed. And they do have the ability to make a difference. We therefore need to vote for those that base their decisions on facts, have the foresight to respect our kids and other future generations, and have the integrity to stand up for what they know is right in the long run. Even if it means not being repeatedly elected. I hope and pray that those leaders come forward very soon, and that we don’t fail to elect them, before it is too late to lift this burden from my children.
* As winter activities go, I have my kids focusing on other activities like ice skating anyway. While projections would show there will be ice around, there may not be consistent snow.
Scott Hackel Madison, WI 2nd Congressional District
How has climate change affected my family? Let me count the ways. Farming in this summer of unmitigated rain is an overwhelming challenge. Drying hay for baling this year is a near impossibility. So much lies rotted in the fields. Any sort of fieldwork is hampered by what seems to be our monsoon season. Two days ago a thunderstorm rose up after a typically hot, humid day and, in a little less than an hour, powered down 3.6 inches on our farm and 5.1 inches on another farm a few miles from here.
I call my daughter and son-in-law in Nevada to tell them the choke berry crop they have planted back in Wisconsin on our farm is not doing well; that field has been incessantly soaked since May. Starting a new crop is a hefty financial investment so it does not bode well. My son-in-law grew up in Nevada and claims that the kind of wind they're seeing so consistently in these last few years is a new kind and very frightening. He has just returned from a work-related assignment in St. George, Utah, and the temperatures there hovered between 117 and 120 degrees the entire time.
I try to describe this farm on a lake I've lived on for 41 years to a friend, and all I can compare it to is living in a tropical rain forest. The vegetation is so thick we need to stock up on machetes! The only beach on the lake has been nearly swallowed.
And then there is my phone call to my daughter in California; I am concerned about the wildfires and how close they are to her now. The skies remain smoky, the air harder to breathe.
But the most threatening aspect of climate change, in addition to the extreme weather conditions, is undoubtedly the tick-borne diseases. My neighbor works at the emergency room in nearby Stevens Point and claims there is not a day that goes without patients coming in with ticks and/or symptoms of Lyme disease. He calls it an epidemic. It becomes a nightly ritual at our house to examine every square inch of ourselves at day's end to see if a tick surfaces. Each year Lyme disease becomes a bit more deadly, morphs into forms that are trickier to diagnose, and leaves lasting effects on its victims. I have had Lyme disease twice and its “cousin,” ehrlichiosis. Ticks are one reason our children would rather not bring our grandchildren here in the summer and when they do, we are hyper-vigilant.
My husband and I find ourselves reminiscing about the good old days when rainy days were gentler and kinder, ticks weren't so alarming, winters were more enduring, and talk of global warming was a prediction rather than a harsh reality.
Kelly Aanrud Amherst Junction, Wisconsin 3rd Congressional District
Monday morning, August 7, there was 3.5 inches of rain in my rain gauge. It all came in only 1 and 1/2 hours on Sunday night, from 8 to about 9:30 PM. This deluge overwhelmed our basement defenses leaving a shallow puddle of about 100 square feet. This has never happened in all the 16 years we’ve lived here. We’ve sustained a few 3-inch rainfalls in the past 5 years, but these were spread over 6 or 12 hours. A 3-inch rain in 24 hours is not normal for Wisconsin. Sunday evening’s “rain bomb” is definitely not normal.
This summer sees the Madison area with about 9 inches over normal rainfall. Corn and other crops in low lying areas of fields are water stressed and small. There are no crops where standing water still remains. We have a mosquito plague of Biblical scale. I must wear a hat covered with mosquito netting, a long sleeve shirt and pants if I want to weed my garden or do any type of yard work.
Last summer, Ashland sustained 8 and more inches of rain in less than 24 hours causing flooding over highways and at least one death. This year, while visiting family in Ashland, a good friend of mine reported the water temperature was an unprecedented 72 degrees – almost that of a heated swimming pool. Normally Ashland average maximum water temperature in August is in the mid 60’s.
A friend of ours in Eugene, Oregon had to suffer through a week of unprecedented 100+ degree temperatures, 107 one day, and she has no air conditioning -- the Pacific Northwest didn’t need it before now. My sister-in-law living in Las Vegas, NM reported torrential rains, and tennis ball size hail*, breaking windows, damaging roofs, and wrecking cars. They also had a super-rare tornado warning one night.
Summer and winter weather here in Southern Wisconsin used to be fairly dependable with temperatures and precipitation. I’ve had gardens for the past 40 years, and lately I now wonder how each summer will be for my vegetables. This was never a concern before. My wife and I love to cross country ski and snowshoe. Most winters since we’ve retired, we’ve hardly been able to get out for these activities due to lack of snow.
These are early warning signs of a changing climate. Scientists have been predicting increasing severe weather events, heat waves, droughts, torrential rainfall, for decades. These predictions are now starting to come to pass. They are predicting worse and more events in years ahead.
We have ourselves to blame. All of this is caused by humans using fossil fuel. As doctors tell themselves, “First do no harm”. We must heed that warning. End fossil fuel use rapidly, get down to net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
There is work to be done. Time for this great nation to act. Our government must pass legislation placing a price on carbon use, return that money to all households to help defray increasing fuel costs, and stand aside and let the market react very quickly to a rising cost of carbon.
Tom Umhoefer Stoughton, WI 2nd Congressional District
The basement of my neighbor’s new house flooded in massive rainstorm this summer. They lost their furnace and there was nothing they could do but wait for the basement to dry out. This has not been the dream retirement house they were expecting and there’s nothing they can do to protect it from the future extreme rainstorms except put the house on stilts. The last two years have had the worst rain storms that I can remember in my 35 years living on this lake. Global warming is making our rains more intense so I don’t expect it to get any better for my neighbor. Our winters are also much warmer, last winter we had almost no snowmobilers; there was almost no snow.
As a beekeeper, I am concerned about the deaths of so many bees. Climate change is part of the reason why so many are dying. Essentially, they are stressed to death. Here are three of the stressors:
The Rise of Parasites: Varroa and small hive beetles are thriving in Wisconsin. The Varroa epidemic has never been worse. A colony that used to produce almost 200 pounds of honey each year now produces 60 pounds or less. Because the planet is warming up, the environment is better for the Varroa, worse for the honeybee. bacteria and viruses Small hive beetles, which used to infest only hives in southern states are moving north with abnormally warmer weather. Bacteria and viruses also thrive in warmer climates, so southern pests (including the Zika virus) will someday be common here.
Low Quality Forage: Since we have surpassed 400 parts per million of CO2 in the atmosphere, the pollen contains as much as 30% less protein but more sugars. Bees need protein to raise their brood, so they have to gather much more pollen to raise the same sized brood.
Colony Collapse Disorder: When CCD happens, all bees leave the hive and go in search of a new place to live. In a normal swarming, the old queen flies off with one third to one half of all bees to make a new colony and leaves a new queen, her daughter, and all the honey and pollen. In CCD, they determine they cannot live there and all leave, never to return. We don’t know what causes this, but one clue is that they sometimes entomb the pollen in a crust of shiny wax, and the cell is depressed, as if they had tried to seal the contaminated pollen away from their brood. They may decide that this pollen is bad for their brood. I saw a hive take off once: One day, the numbers seemed normal, the next, there was not a single bee left in the hive. No corpses, nothing. They all flew past me, making the sound of a freight train. It was spectacular. These stressors on the hives are caused by the fact that our Earth is warming. That warming is at least aggravated by human actions as we burn and seek out more fossil fuels for energy.
Cécile Stelzer-Johnson Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin 3rd Congressional District
I live and breathe birds. I can talk for hours about birds, their flight behavior, eating habits and nesting patterns are as familiar to me as my morning coffee. I am a volunteer with Audubon Climate Watch and an officer with The Bluebird Restoration Project of Wisconsin.
Hummingbirds are now often staying in the Gulf states for the winter instead of traveling to South and Central America for the winter.
There are reports the Northern Cardinals are being found north of their traditional range. Other birds usually only seen in warmer climates are being sighted far from their typical range. Just in the last few weeks a Frigate bird was seen in Wisconsin, probably blown off course by the powerful winds of the larger, more intense hurricanes we are witnessing.
My beloved bluebirds are having new difficulties in our state. They attempt to nest earlier. The nesting attempts may fail due to warm then cold weather we have been witnessing in April and May.
Audubon predicts 314 North American bird species will be threatened by climate change.
Steve Sample Madison, Wisconsin 2nd Congressional District
I have spent most of my adult life as a Wildlife Educator/Interpretive Naturalist. In this time I have been fortunate enough to work at a number of ecologically important sites, including State Parks, State Forest and State Wildlife Areas. What I have notice in my 30+ years of outdoor education experience is a slow relentless erosion of top soil and and degradation of these natural ecosystems. These changes are caused principally by climate change and its accompanied intense rain events. These rain events cause erosion and soil removal more or less uniformly from every part of the land mass. In Wisconsin this is often accompanied by small channels or rills, irregularly dispersed across the landscape. With these changes comes a slow relentless loss of plant and wildlife communities, and a cascade of secondary change due to invasive species and diseases. In northern Wisconsin where soils are often shallow, these rain events can lead to mass erosion of bridges, highways and other man made structures. In Wisconsin we stand to lose revenues from tourism, hunting and fishing, agriculture degradation and diseases. Global warming intensifies these rain events and exacerbates the destruction.
To reduce the global warming and its accompanying human losses, we must reduce greenhouse gases we emit by burning fossil fuels. To do this we must put a price on carbon! All money raised by such a bill would go in equal amounts to American families so that we can pay the increased costs of fuel.
Contact U.S. Sens. Tammy Baldwin and Ron Johnson as well as your representative, Ron Kind or Sean Duffy in central Wisconsin. Ask them to pass a bill establishing a revenue-neutral carbon fee & dividend!
Bill Seybold Plover, WI 7th Congressional District
In 2015 as a Valentine’s Day gift my wife planned a date to Hudson, WI for snow tubing and dinner at a nice restaurant for the last weekend in February. She made the reservations and arranged a babysitter for our 3 year old daughter and 7 month old son. It would be the first kid-free date since our son was born and I was really looking forward to it. Unfortunately, warm weather and rain closed the snow tubing hill a week before we were scheduled to go so we had to scrap the date. We were extremely disappointed. The following year, in 2016, we tried the date idea again. We organized the babysitter and made our plans for the third weekend in February. Again, warm temperatures and rain closed the snow tubing hill the weekend before we were set to go. We were yet again dejected and instead I ended up going north to Duluth, MN to find some snow and spent my money in Minnesota snowboarding instead of tubing in Wisconsin. Last winter, 2017, we thought about trying again for our perpetually delayed snow tubing date but it became clear in late January that there was no way there would be enough snow and we didn’t even try. For three years in a row we have been unable to partake in winter activities in the middle of winter because it was too warm for snow. Global warming is wrecking our winters and our romantic plans.
Dan Herscher Birchwood, WI 7th Congressional District
In mid-2011, I was living in Houston, Texas during its worst drought in history – a drought which killed 301 million trees across the state. I watched the news of the western part of the state suffering the most catastrophic wildfires in Texas history, and I heard of epic tornadoes snatching children from their beds in Alabama. I lay awake in the middle of every night during that scorching hot August feeling sick about the planet I would be handing over to my two sons, then aged six and five, and the daughter we planned to adopt. The future seemed too dangerous for them. The waste we had thoughtlessly lain to our only habitat seemed too tragic. The callous ignorance of my neighbors, driving one-ton pickups with bumper stickers stating “I love my carbon footprint,” seemed too hopeless. I was spiraling into anxiety.
Six years later, it is mid-2017, and while I enjoy an unusually warm autumn in lovely Wisconsin, Houston is trying to recover from its most devastating flood ever in the wake of Hurricane Harvey (in fact, the house we still own there is currently occupied by neighbors whose flooded home will take months to repair). Florida was just hit by Irma, the largest hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic. The mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico has stated that with Hurricane Maria, “the Puerto Rico and the San Juan that we knew yesterday is no longer there.” The state of Montana has been on fire, and according to a 2016 article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the total area burned in the western U.S. over the past 33 years had already been double the size it would have been without any human-caused warming.
On top of all that, the American people recently elected a global warming-denying president who broke the U.S.’s promise to honor our Paris Accord emisisons reductions and who appointed a global warming-denying EPA administrator. On one hand, or perhaps several hands, things don’t look better.
Today, however, and perhaps ironically, I have hope. Aside from the few months directly after the election, I no longer wake at 2:00 a.m. terrified of our heating planet and the uncertain future facing my three children. I know, of course, that humans are still afflicted by chronic ignorance and greed. But lately I’ve watched as American cities and companies pledge to reduce emissions, independent of Paris Accord obligations. I’ve also noticed other nations, rather than jumping ship with us, shrug off the lack of U.S. leadership and carry on with their Paris Accord commitments. I’ve seen the issue of climate change appear less and less politicized in Washington as the House of Representatives drafts climate legislation via its bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus and as more and more prominent Republicans acknowledge our responsibility to act on the climate. And as a new Wisconsin resident, I hear my current neighbors, regardless of political affiliation, express their concern about the climate. Maybe we aren’t as callously ignorant as we seemed in surburban Houston in 2011. It seems to me now that the world is full of people who care, think, and act. With a few prominent exceptions, of course. Maybe the very fact that Trump is such a human caricature will ultimately propel enough Americans in the opposite direction of his climate nonsense towards the political action our children so urgently need. Maybe the tragedies of Harvey, Irma, and Maria are exactly what was required to wake up the carbon-footprint-loving South. Maybe we are already on the other side of the historical error of climate change denial. With this hope, I feel healthier and readier to help.
Tess Carr Lodi Wisconsin 6th Congressional District
I work for a community center that has a food pantry garden: a .85 acre garden to grow fresh, healthy produce for the 60 families a week that come to use our food pantry. Without this garden, we barely have any fresh produce to offer families coming to our pantry; with the garden, our shelves are overflowing with an abundance of produce to offer all the families in need coming to our Center. This makes a huge difference in the quality and nutrition of the items we are able to offer. Our garden, like any garden or farm, is very dependent upon the cycles of nature. Especially so because we do not have a water source at the garden; there is no easy way to water the plants if need be. The 2012 drought put our whole garden in jeopardy. Volunteers filled up trash cans with water from home, brought them to the garden, and we used milk jugs to water things by hand so the plants wouldn’t die. A local fire department even came once to douse water on the garden. This was just enough to keep the plants alive; it wasn’t enough water to allow the plants to thrive and provide a bountiful harvest. This year, the extremely wet weather has mostly benefitted our garden. However, you can have too much of a good thing. Our garden is on a hill, so few of our plants were damaged by the abnormally high precipitation. A neighboring food pantry garden, which is on level ground, was not so lucky. All the extra rain this summer flooded some of the crops leading to a loss in their harvest. Climate change has caused and will continue to intensify extreme weather events such as droughts and heavy precipitation events. Either one of these puts our gardening efforts and our mission to plant food to feed the hungry in jeopardy. I imagine the many farmers in our state feel the same effects of increasingly unstable climate.
Laura Green Madison, WI 2nd Congressional District
How does your garden grow? Ours could be better. It’s not all that big: just a couple of raised beds, some asparagus, and two grape vines. Last year, they all did pretty well. This year, though, they have a bug problem. Actually, they’re covered with Japanese beetles. I’ve found that the best way to kill them is to drop them into a jar of soapy water in it. When they sense danger, they roll off the leaf they’re on right into the jar. Problem solved, right? Not so much, no. I kill 300 to 500 in a single picking, but the next time I go out, just as many await me on our green beans, asparagus, and grapevines, as well as on our flowers and trees. “Why?” you ask. Well, last summer was the first time we encountered Japanese beetles, but last winter wasn’t cold enough to kill them, so this year they’re back with a vengeance. Climate change is causing this. The beetles are moving north because it’s warmer, and then they live right through our warmer winters. Because of climate change, we in Wisconsin are also getting far more rain than we used to. So far, 2017 has been the wettest year in recorded Wisconsin history. I like not having to water the veggies in my raised beds, but Wisconsin farmer are having problems getting into their fields to plant and harvest, and some crops are getting washed out. The winds accompanying the rains have also caused havoc here in Stevens Point. Many trees have been torn out by the roots or broken in half, and some of the trees landed on the homes of friends of mine. I worry about the even more extreme weather my children and their children will face. To avoid that, we need our members of Congress to pass carbon fee and dividend legislation. That will reduce the carbon pollution that is causing the extreme weather we’re beginning to face.
Dan Dieterich Stevens Point, WI 3rd Congressional District
Climate change is a fear that sometimes threatens to overwhelm me, even though it hasn’t personally hit me as drastically as has Harvey in Houston, or the firestorms in Montana. It’s here, though, and we in Wisconsin have been impacted as well. Climate change is hanging over us like a dark cloud, and it’s only going to get worse – unless we make some drastic changes, and very soon. A year ago, I traveled to Glacier National Park in Montana, and witnessed first hand what photographers have been documenting over the past century. The glaciers are nearly gone. They’re tiny remnants of huge expanses of snow that for centuries graced the high country and provided fresh water to everything downstream. I never made it to Sperry Chalet, one of two historic hike-in only lodges in Glacier’s back-country. Now I’ll never see it, because a monstrous wildfire fed by super-heated air burned it to the ground in 2017.
Wisconsin is feeling the heat of climate change too: shorter, milder winters, and more intense storms are here now. I am an avid cross country skier, and a participant for many years in North America’s biggest cross country ski race, the American Birkebeiner, which is held in Cable & Hayward every year. This signature event has been cancelled or shortened a couple times in recent years due to lack of snow and warm temperatures. The “Birkie” brings in millions of dollars in tourist revenue to northwest Wisconsin every year. What would Wisconsin be without this incredible event?
Winter activities aren’t the only thing that’s threatened in our beautiful state – every economic sector is impacted when the state gets deluged with heavy rains in short, intense downpours. The summer of 2016 was the 4th wettest summer in Wisconsin in the last 122 years, since the National Weather Service has kept official records. Heavy rains, thunderstorms and a total of 16 tornadoes statewide caused millions of dollars in damage to homes, businesses and public infrastructure. On July 12, 8 to 12 inches of rain fell in a matter of hours across northern Wisconsin. Governor Scott Walker declared a State of Emergency for eight counties.
I was traveling north on State Highway 13 recently when I came across the road washouts from the 2016 storms - some hadn’t even been repaired, and even with those that had been fixed it was clear the streams, forests, and landscapes had been significantly damaged and would take years to recover. As a former state employee for the Department of Transportation, I know that roads and bridges are not constructed to withstand more than 100-year flood events. We’re now seeing 500-year and even 1,000-year flood events more frequently. There is no way to build to those standards. We will continue to see washouts that will cost millions to repair.
Between January and June 2017, more than 20 inches of rain fell in Wisconsin, enough to make the first-half of the year the second wettest on record. I live in Stevens Point, which is sand country. Water usually drains immediately into the ground because it’s so permeable. One of these storms was so intense and dropped so much rain in such a short time that it flooded the streets in Stevens Point, which is unheard of. People were canoeing down the streets. I’ve seen rain being dumped from the sky like an overturned bucket – one bucket per square foot, like I’ve never seen in previous years. This type of intense, heavy rain washes away topsoil, strips vegetation, and causes more stormwater pollution.
If something isn’t done now to reduce the carbon emissions that are threatening Wisconsin and the rest of the planet, these disasters will continue and will get worse. Why take the risk? Why leave this devastation to our children and grandchildren? Please, act now as a responsible representative of the people of Wisconsin: sponsor and support a carbon fee and dividend (CF&D) to incentivize reductions of carbon emissions. A national, revenue-neutral CF&D would place a predictable, steadily-rising price on carbon and other greenhouse gases, with all fees collected minus administrative costs being returned to households as a monthly energy dividend. In just 20 years, studies show, such a system could reduce carbon emissions to 50% of 1990 levels while adding 2.1 million jobs about baseline to the American economy.
Glacier National Park is a national treasure, slowly melting and then burning away because our nation refuses to recognize the threat staring us in the face! Wisconsin, too, is a treasured part of this great nation, and shares in the threat of Climate Change. We do not want to be the frog simmering on the stove – to suddenly realize we did not act when we had time – but it’s too late.
Janet E. Smith Plover, Wisconsin 3rd Congressional District
Faraway Disasters Hit Home as Severe Weather Worsens
As I write this, my cousin and his wife hunker down in their Petaluma, California, home, just miles from raging wildfires that have claimed at least 24 lives in five days.
For the moment, they are safe, he tells me in an email, but “the danger hasn't passed, as we have winds fanning those fires. And the news reports still say, ‘Zero percent containment,’ which is not encouraging.”
He continues: “The devastation so close to us is sobering, to say the least. Lots of newly homeless people; it's heartbreaking. Others ordered to evacuate, not knowing what they'll come back to find.”
He thanks me for worrying about them. I ask him to keep me posted.
Last month I emailed my brother with similar worries after Hurricane Irma dumped 21 inches of rain on parts of Port St. Lucie, Florida, where he resides. My phone calls to him had gone unanswered for two days.
Earlier, as the huge storm approached, he told me his biggest concern was losing power. Disabled by a severe head injury decades ago, my brother lives alone but manages well under normal circumstances. The last time a powerful hurricane roared through his part of Florida, though, he was without electricity for what seemed like an eternity. Lacking air conditioning or even window fans, he sweltered in place waiting for overworked repair crews to arrive.
My brother was luckier this time. He got my email and was able to call me. On high ground (by Florida standards) and several miles inland, his house had escaped flooding. Storm shutters protected his windows and doors. His only damage: one fallen tree and a car battery that died in the stifling heat of his garage while the power was out.
I was relieved. But still, I worry. How many millions of Americans must endure anxieties like these – let alone real losses and hardship – before our country faces the harsh reality that severe weather is intensifying before our eyes, just as scientists have predicted.
In a matter of weeks, Hurricane Harvey drowned the Houston area in more than 50 inches of rain, Hurricane Irma flattened the Florida Keys, Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, and now, firestorms are scorching California. Each of these weather-related disasters is called “historic.” Recovery will take years and cost hundreds of billions of dollars. Countless lives have been shattered.
How much longer can we tell ourselves that this is normal?
Our climate is changing faster than at any other time in human history. Dozens of scientific organizations are on record saying that while the outcome is uncertain, human activity is undeniably responsible. Yet, those currently in power in our nation’s capital cling to denial.
In my 34 years as a professional environmental writer and editor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, no problem prompted more concern among the scores of dedicated scientists with whom I worked – not just climatologists but health experts, ecologists, foresters, civil engineers, sociologists, and many others – than the potential impacts of global warming.
Most alarming to me, though, were the concerted efforts by shady special-interest groups to cast doubt on the science and stymie any serious public policy response. I saw them firsthand.
With so much at stake, I could not sit on the sidelines when I retired. That’s when I joined Citizens’ Climate Lobby and became a volunteer climate advocate.
Recent opinion polls indicate most of us accept that climate change is occurring and that human actions are at least partly to blame. It’s clear, though, that many elected officials in Washington don’t yet believe we want them to do something about it. That needs to change.
Despite the fierce partisan divide that hangs over our country, I see a ray of hope in the Climate Solutions Caucus, a bipartisan group in the House of Representatives that has quietly grown to 60 members (as of October 2017), equally divided between Democrats and Republicans. While moving cautiously, they appear to be sincere and genuinely concerned. That’s encouraging, because for the foreseeable future, any constructive response to the climate crisis at the federal level must come from Congress, and only bipartisan approaches stand a chance of success.
Tom Sinclair Madison, WI 2nd Congressional District
Rob McClure and Erin Schneider are looking forward to what they have dubbed the ‘wealth-generating’ benefits of solar-powered electricity at their organic food and flower farm in La Valle, Wisconsin.
In June of 2013, the couple installed ground-mounted photovoltaic panels on the south side of their barn atop a 1200-foot stretch of ridge. The PV system supplies this CSA operation with an excess of electricity: 100% of their needs and some to spare, which they return to the grid. Currently, they’re paying more to service the loan for the system than their standard electric bill was running, but through a combination of cost-sharing from the Rural Energy for America program and a down payment, they expect to finish up in ten years. That’s when the ‘wealth-generating’ phase will kick in.
“It will be essentially free electricity then,” Rob said. “The panels have a 30-year life expectancy.”
“It’s been fun to watch how much electricity we generate versus how much we use each month. The real surprise was becoming more energy conscious. I always had a feeling that I should conserve energy, but wasn’t that great about turning off lights, shutting off the water heater when we leave, and so on. Since this system, and not paying the power company, now I can see it’s a positive money-making effort for us.”
Then there’s the satisfaction of what Erin called the ‘philosophical and moral sustainability’ of linking up with solar as an economic partner to their mission of growing and providing healthy food. They channel sunlight into crops to feed their customers, while that same solar energy lowers both their operational costs and their reliance on fossil fuels.
Hilltop’s mission is all about sustainable connections. Families buy shares in the farm through their CSA membership. Their utility, Oakdale Electric, is a non-profit coop, and the staff were ‘gung ho’ about the panels, Rob said, visiting the farm to learn more about how they work. The PV system itself was designed and installed by North Wind Renewable Energy of Stevens Point. North Wind converted recently to a worker-owned cooperative in order to advance their vision of renewable energy as a vital and integral solution to the global energy crisis. Said a customer of North Wind’s in a website testimonial: “These guys believe in what they’re doing.”
Crops - We're Constantly Learning and Adjusting
In terms of heavy single rain events over the past two summers, climate change is certainly affecting us. The frequency and the intensity have been the challenge. A number of crops are very sensitive to it. Our broccoli and cabbages last year got way too much rain and rotted in place. Onions are susceptible. We’ve had a real problem with garlic. And this year, especially with the heavy rain events in July and August? That’s a hard time because we’re harvesting then. Perennials can handle the rains because of deeper root systems, so we’re shifting more to perennial fruits. The soil itself is a problem. When you’re flooded again and again, the soil goes down to the Gulf of Mexico or is unworkable. The rain brings a stickiness to the soil which forms a crust, changing its texture and porosity so it can’t absorb water. We’ve started to use a lot more mulch wherever there’s bare soil, so that when we do get one of these massive rains, we’re not losing it and it’s not compacted. We’re constantly learning and adjusting. Installing a photovoltaic solar system back in 2013 was a great move for us and there’s a social piece to it too, as we return energy to the grid for other businesses and households in our area. We’re not entirely out of the fossil fuel system but it’s a big step toward more psychological and moral sustainability. Rob McClure and Erin Schneider La Valle, Wisconsin Co-owners of Hilltop Community Farm 2nd Congressional District
I learned that there are now LED tube light bulbs near year end 2016. They fit in the four foot long fixtures that typically hold two fluorescent bulbs. There are two types, one replaces the fluorescent tubes with no modification of wiring or the fixture. The other allows removing the ballast and changing the wiring which should be a more energy efficient option since the first continues energizing the ballast even though the LED tube bulb does not use it. We rent an apartment in Weston so have no opportunity to utilize solar or other alternative energy sources other than the portion provided through the local utility provider. We use “normal” LED bulbs in all other fixtures and lamps in the apartment. Changing out fluorescent tubes to LED tubes in the kitchen area fixture would provide another way to increase energy efficiency in our apartment. The building maintenance person was not aware of LED tube bulbs but said he would research and get back to me. About two months later he told me he had researched the new bulbs then approached his employer about a phased replacement of fluorescent bulbs throughout their organization comprising more than fifty apartment buildings in WI, MN and IL. He has sought out WI Focus on Energy incentives and suppliers for volume discounts for the organization. I requested replacement of fluorescent tubes in our apartment which is completed except for the removal of the ballast and the required rewiring of the fixture for maximum efficiency. We think the LED lights are slightly brighter than the old bulbs. I am told fluorescent tubes draw 32 watts per tube, the LED tubes draw 17 watts each for a near 100% efficiency improvement along with substantially longer life. There are 46 apartments in our building with at least one fixture with two tubes in each fixture. There are also 92 fixtures in common areas of the building with two tubes in each fixture. Replacing all with LED tubes will result in substantial energy/cost savings for building residents and the owner organization. Multiply that saving across more than 50 buildings and the energy/cost savings mount. Each of us can search out ways to be more energy efficient for ourselves and can sometimes find a method that expands the result. The technology already exists to protect our earth home from the ravages of progressive climate change. Most of us doing this protects our earth home without giving up the creature comforts we want. What is needed is the political will to enact policies that encourage and support doing what is needed. Brian Bushnell Schofield, WI 7th Congressional District
Three components to this answer. One is climate change and all the problems dependence on fossil fuels bring – such as war. Two is having grandchildren and having the hope they inherit a sustainable world - otherwise little changed from the world we know. Three is having the good fortune of having an advanced, incurable cancer that has cleared my mind and erased all my worries except those centered on my grandchildren's future world. There is really nothing else worth worrying about and doing nothing is unacceptable – especially when addressing climate change will be cheaper and safer. All change produces disruption. Doing nothing will be disruptive and more disruptive than acting now. The only difference is when disruption occurs. Solar is my contribution."
Hannah Pinkerton: “We traveled to Australia in the early part of this year because we wanted to see the Great Barrier Reef before it’s gone. We figured if we waited even a year, it would have gotten much worse.
They took us down in a submersible and you could see the areas that had been bleached out. It was astounding to us that they were saying, ‘well, it’s raining now and maybe it will come back,’ in contrast to the papers there, which were calling it a huge problem. The business side of it (reef tourism) is downplaying it, while the government is getting more organized and talking about what can be done about it.”
From a 3/15/17 article in the New York Times: ‘If most of the world’s coral reefs die, as scientists fear is increasingly likely, some of the richest and most colorful life in the ocean could be lost, along with huge sums from reef tourism. In poorer countries, lives are at stake: hundreds of millions of people get their protein primarily from reef fish, and the loss of that food supply could become a humanitarian crisis.’
On Mount Kilimanjaro:
Tad Pinkerton has twice climbed this dormant volcano in Tanzania. The ice fields on the mountain continue to retreat. “The climbs I did were two years apart. At the top, virtually every direction you look there’s a glacier around you or slightly below you. The one that’s down in the crater melted enough to become two separate glaciers. The main problem is the villages that ring the base. They depend on glacial water for their crops. If the glaciers disappear, those villages will have to disappear as well.”
Hannah and Tad Pinkerton Madison, Wisconsin 2nd Congressional District
I grew up in southern Minnesota. In the 1960’s, I would often be able to skate and play ice hockey out-of-doors, including before Christmas. Outdoor ice rinks in Minnesota and Wisconsin are less frequently able to be used throughout the traditional outdoor skating season due to warmer weather. In 2012, I visited a graduate student friend of mine in Makueni, Kenya. The river in which my friend swam and fished when he was a child has dried up and has virtually no running surface water most of the year, causing great hardship to persons who relied upon such river for drinking water and other needs. I am concerned about climate change because its impacts are both local and global and such impacts will continue and grow more severe unless effective steps are taken to minimize climate change and its impacts.
Gary Dreier Stevens Point, Wisconsin 3rd Congressional District
I imagine that most people in Wisconsin know very little about Sierra Leone and give this small country in Africa no thought during the course of the day. I was certainly one of those people until I travelled there 18 months ago to spend two weeks doing volunteer work. I had the privilege of visiting a dozen rural communities and being hosted by people like Saio, Foray, Andrew and Lansana who were some of the most gracious people I have ever met. While I was there I learned that Sierra Leone has been ranked as the third most vulnerable nation after Bangladesh and Guinea Bissau to adverse effects of climate change (globalsecurity.org). A 2015 report by the US Agency for International Development stated the country is particularly at risk to the impact of rainfall variability and the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, including heat waves and heavy precipitation events. Heavy rainfall events following dry spells were predicted to result in extensive flash floods and mudslides throughout the country (climatelinks.org). It was projected that these impacts from climate change would likely continue to affect Sierra Leone in the future, despite the country being least responsible for the problem since their contribution to global emissions of greenhouse gases is negligible. Given this prediction it should be no surprise at what occurred in Sierra Leone this month. According to weather.com meteorologists, the area has seen nearly 20 inches more rain than average over the last 30 days. This has resulted in massive mudslides in the capital city of Freetown and has killed 300 people and another 600 still missing. This extreme weather event might be dismissed by skeptics as just another natural disaster. However, as previously mentioned the probability of such a disaster was foretold by climate experts in 2015. This plain and simple is the result of climate change and one which is exacerbated by our own carbon emissions. We need to connect the dots around the world on the global impacts of climate change.
My heart goes out to my friends in Sierra Leone who have had to deal with civil war and the Ebola outbreak in the past 12 years. It is not a country that can just clean up and move forward. This is another catastrophe that will leave our attention span by next week, but which they will try to recover from for years.
Dr. Bill Van Lopik Grand Chute, WI 8th Congressional District
I am a retired hospital chaplain, credentialed by the United Methodist Church and certified by the Association of Professional Chaplains (APC). As such, some years back, I responded to a request by the American Red Cross that came to me through the APC. At the time, the Red Cross was looking for volunteers who had been trained to work with families who were caught in trauma and experiencing grief as a result of suffering or death brought about by “natural” disasters. I have been deployed by the Red Cross as a Spiritual Care Volunteer for six years. My perspective on climate change has been informed by the pain I’ve seen on the faces of families with whom I have worked, by the tears that I’ve felt well up in me as I’ve listened to their stories. Over and over again, I have seen first-hand the destruction of homes and neighborhoods that are the realization of years of hopes and dreams. “Home,” said someone, is the “place where, when you go there, they have to take you in.” But tornados and hurricanes, fires and floods and earthquakes, leave no safe haven. Where do you go when there is no place to go? Can you spell Puerto Rico?
I have seen tears roll down the cheeks of parents whose children have been killed. I have heard cries of anguish wrenched from the lips of men and women who have lost their partner. I struggle to respond to expressions of anger so intense that I feared for the safety of others. Again and again, there are the anguished questions: “Why did this happen?” “Where was God when we prayed for safety?” “Does God not care?” “How could a loving God allow this to happen to me and my family?”
The questions are not new; they echo through the tragedies of centuries past. But there is something that is new, unprecedented. The intensity, duration, and frequency of these disasters, -that is new. Most of us can remember tornados and hurricanes experienced when we were young, but climate change, -that is new. In the past, we seemed to pick ourselves up and get on with life, but now there seems to be greater loss of life, and destruction on an unprecedented scale, -that is new.
Kent Richmond Stevens Point, WI 3rd Congressional District
My story is that while staffing a booth for the Charter for Compassion International at the Midwest Renewable Energy Association Fair, and after talking to hundreds of people I discovered that every one of them was in a stage of grief.
Having been a nurse and working with terminal illnesses, I recognized the same stages of grief with respect to climate change and the planet that I saw in coming to terms with loss of life. My belief is that we are all feeling this loss (our planet slipping away) whether we are consciously aware or not.
The five stages of grief as first identified by Dr. Elizabeth Kubler Ross begins with denial. Denial is a defense mechanism. Most not in denial are angry but feel overwhelmed at the magnitude of what we are facing. They can become frozen in their grief.
I thought the best thing I could do was to create something to help people process and thaw their grief. We can act only when we acknowledge and face our fears. If the fear is overwhelming, we can become frozen and unable to act. Not facing the fear is a choice and some navigate that fear by adopting denial. Thawing the feelings brings the courage to act.
My studio did a film to facilitate the thawing. It's an educational film for the Charter for Compassion educational institute, now in its 4th edition and high definition. It is a piece that has been used in group gatherings. It has to be watched as presented from beginning to end. You can find the latest version here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JTXkf-Hfd5c
Barbara Kaufmann Appleton, WI 8th Congressional District
We are in a large crisis and it becomes apparent that not many know the importance of the situation we have gotten ourselves into. Our climate is experiencing some drastic changes that could have been prevented a long time ago with the thought of sustainability. I would like to emphasize our water crisis that we have continued to contribute to, while forgetting how to conserve and cut down in the abundant areas of consumption.
I am worried for the day that I go to the sink for a cold glass of water and there is nothing. I fear the day that we have taken all the water from the nonrenewable aquifers which would mean the farming industry will suffer and our produce will be no longer. I fear that when this time comes, no one will know what to do and or have a plan or explanation for it.
We have been told time and time again that we need to cut back on our water consumption if sustainability is the goal. Many don’t believe it or eventually forget about it, but one day we will not be able to put our water crisis on the back burner because it will be right in front of us.
This crisis affects everyone; farmers use 70-80 percent of each state’s water (the high percentage of water in agriculture that is used is to grow crops, with a very low value of water being returned). There are changes that could be made to make the value of the water increase. If all of our attention is focused on this crisis right now I know we could come up with improved solutions to fix the problem.
In the book Unquenchable, the general manager of the Coach Valley Water District in California says that the biggest challenge of water managers is “Convincing the public that there really is a problem, and sometimes the only way to do that is to have a disaster.” I understand we have the technology to affect the climate and change the weather. I’m sure there are many reasons for these changes, but the biggest reason might be to get the attention of others on specific crisis. I’m not certain how far this thought has been taken, but I understand the intent. It’s a scary thought that deserves to be handled in the correct way by all of us. We all inhabit this earth, which means we all affect it and we can help what we have done in the past by not continuing to make the same choices that we have. We can continue by living sustainable lives.
I remember my young childhood in Wisconsin. We are known for our cold months in Wisconsin. The snow piles on the streets were huge and plows were called as soon as it started to snow because when it snowed we expected a lot. But, our winters are different now. In the blink of an eye, our snow expectancy has depleted. Each year we get less and less snow. Our planet is warming. There are not many ice sheets left in our oceans to reflect all the harmful rays and carbon dioxide back into our stratosphere. Our planet continues to go through hazardous changes right in front of us.
We did this, we created substances that cannot be reversed and cannot beat we have trusted pollutants that made us live here a hazard. We weakened the place we stand and now it’s time to rebuild. There are situations right in front of us that we can have control over and we choose not to. For money and greed, that won’t even exist or matter when we no longer have a safe place to live. Standing up for our environment for the safety of our families and our generations that have yet to come is important, why it is not a priority to many, I’ll never understand.
The Native American’s of Standing Rock South Dakota have been fighting for what seems like decades after what they have endured on their journey. As an Oneida tribal member, it is our job to stand together and fighting against the Dakota Access Pipe Line. There is strong evidence against this pipe line from other residents of areas in the United States that have lived near an oil pipe line. Many of the residents near the construction have experienced health damages. The Keystone XL pipeline runs from Alberta Canada to the Gulf of Texas. Ponca City, Oklahoma is being affected by the expansion. It is receiving an increased amount of toxic emissions from the tar sand transport. Tar stand produces 17 percent more greenhouse gases than traditional crude oil. The air quality has also become life threatening, and the residents are forced to breathe in dangerous emissions. It was proven that children in the area surrounding a pipeline are 56 percent more likely to develop leukemia verses children that live 10 miles away. If there is the smallest leak in the pipeline, the residents of the area will be at risk of toxic exposure.
Pollutants such as these have deteriorated our climate and atmosphere completely to the point where we cannot see it recovering. There are things that we have done to our planet that are irreversible and unforgivable. We need to focus on not making the same mistakes because sustainability as of this moment is out of reach unless something is done now.
Corrina Schuyler Green Bay, Wisconsin 8th Congressional District
I have enjoyed the outdoors for the entirety of my life as a camper, hunter, fisherman and athlete. I worked at a YCC (Youth Conservation Camp) camp back in the late 60’s and later chose to major in Natural Resources when I entered college. It was then that I became increasingly aware of environmental issues through reading such books as The PopulationBomb, Silent Spring, A Sand County Almanac, and the assigned readings from my professors.
Back in the late 1970’s, after I had graduated from college, I happened to read a book published in 1972 titled The Limits to Growth. One of the authors of this book was Jorgen Anders. This book made assessments and 40 year projections as to the sustainability of future growth on a planet of fixed means.
Forty years later, in 2012, Jorgen Anders wrote a followup book titled simply 2052. This book takes a look at the years from 1972 through 2012 to assess the accuracy of projections made forty years earlier back in 1972. Anders latest book also makes projections for the next 40 years, hence the title 2052.
This second book, 2052, I found quite alarming. The bottom line is that we all face a period of dramatic change to almost every aspect of life on earth if we fail to address the problems created by the reality of global climate change.
I was encouraged to sense that we have the ability to alter the causes and, thus, effects that climate change is, and will, continue to bring. But the changes that are required are beyond the ability of one, or even several million, individuals to enact. It will take the actions of, not just our government, but the actions of most, if not all, of the leaders and governing bodies of the world acting as one.
We are fortunate that we have a government in the United States that is capable of taking a world leadership role in making the changes that are required to address climate change. I hope to help influence the leadership of my country to see that they must have the unity and the will to accept their responsibility and embrace solutions. For our leadership to do anything less will be both irresponsible and disastrous.
As far as how climate change currently affects my life I can say that I shovel a whole lot less snow than I used to. I have also experienced, on average, lower heating costs than I have, say, 40 years ago. I have noticed that I no longer get frozen off my deer hunting stand as often or as fast as I used to 50 years ago. And, speaking of hunting, I no longer have two feet or more of snow cover to push through while hiking through woods or fields during the winter. I think the road maintenance crews are also using less salt these days which is good for the environment and perhaps for the roads themselves, not to mention the cost savings.
There is no doubt that some effects of climate change, at this point in time, have not been entirely negative for me. I realize, however, that the trend is not static. If the trend continues, as it surely will, we will see the negative effects continue to grow as any positives fall by the wayside.
If we do nothing the brunt of the negative effects of global climate change will be felt by my and your children and grandchildren. This is an affront to future generations. I feel an obligation to leave future generations a world that remains a livable and vital environment for which our heirs may prosper. This was my motivation to join the Citizens’ Climate Lobby.
Jeff Vaughter Stevens Point, Wisconsin 3rd Congressional District
Climate change has affected us and so many other families. With all the hurricanes and earthquakes that have been occurring, this year is going to cost families a lot of money on repairs. On June 12, 2017, a huge storm hit Stevens Point. Thousands of people were without power for days. This storm caused widespread flooding, knocked down hundreds of trees, and tore down power lines all over the city.
At the time of the storm, I was on campus watching the whole thing happen. There was powerful wind and torrential rain. After the rain was done pouring around 9 p.m., my friends and I decided we were hungry and went out to get food. We drove around town trying to find Little Caesars. It took us longer than expected because every road we were on was closed either due to a tree that was in the way or water that was too high to drive through. We stopped near the Church Street bridge where there was high water and got to see a motorcyclist trying to travel under the bridge, although he ended up getting stuck. In order to get him out, fire trucks had to come and use their boats. After going through all that, we discovered Little Caesars was out of power. Instead, we drove to Kwik Trip where we found out everyone was headed there due to the loss of electricity. Thankfully, there were no deaths or serious injuries due to the storm.
Another example is comparing garden last year versus garden this year. this year garden. Last year our garden had a tremendous produce, but this year we didn’t produce much. The changing climate affected the length and quality of the growing seasons because of intensity of flooding and cold nights. The stage of growth when a garden is exposed to drought or heat is important. When a garden is flowering or fruiting, it is very sensitive to changes in temperature and moisture. during other stages of the growth cycle the plants are more tolerant. The temperature and rainfall changes are induced by climate change because they will likely be interacting with atmospheric gases, fertilizers, insects, plant pathogens, weeds, and the soils. We did produce a lot of weeds, which will have increased competition for moisture, nutrients and light. Change in temperature, moisture, and weeds associated with climate change, will reduce food production. This year our garden didn’t produce a lot of tomatoes or pumpkins; we had to go buy more tomatoes to make salsa. So, climate change also impacts us economically.
Unfortunately, storms like this are becoming more common because of human activity, such as burning fossil fuels and chopping down forests, which will cause temperatures to rise. The warmer atmosphere triggers climate change, or shifts in normal climate patterns. The hotter air will increase ocean evaporation, which will hold water in the atmosphere, which will cause intense weather events. You can even see this today if you look at the hurricanes damage in Texas. Many people have lost their homes and livelihoods due to recent hurricanes.
As a global society we need to work together to come up with a plan to reverse climate change. We can limit power plant pollution, prioritize China’s pollution problem, expand carbon markets worldwide, unleash clean energy in the U.S., end fossil fuel subsidies, stop methane leaks, and help reduce fertilizer pollution. Otherwise, these storms will become normal for the world we live in.
Katiana Solinsky Stevens Point, Wisconsin 3rd Congressional District
History of climate change is something that has been in the news a lot lately. It is something people cannot look past anymore; it is getting to be a real issue. Regardless of the issue right now and how many politicians say it has been going on for ten thousand years, we the people have made the biggest impact on climate change in just our little time of existence. Many people could sit here and throw numbers at you to tell you climate change is real. In the time I have been able to comprehend what climate change has done to the areas around me, I have realized it is a strong topic with many opinions. As the years move on, transportation, factories, and farm chemicals have made huge impacts on how the atmosphere is affected.
Transportation has become a way of life here on earth. There is no way we as a population can get rid of it and still be as productive as we are today. From planes to cars and motorcycles to semi’s, they are everywhere and each one makes an impact on the ozone layer. When combustion-powered vehicles run, they burn off gasoline which creates carbon dioxide and methane. As this happens around the world, every second of the day, the impact of these greenhouse gases is huge. In Wisconsin, this issue is not as big as it would be in more populated states or countries like the west coast and Eastern Continents like Asia and Europe. Over the years, these gases burning up the Earth’s ozone layer are one reason behind climate change.
Big corporation factories are another reason behind climate change. Just like vehicles, factories burn off many harmful gases into the air slowly eating up the layers of our atmosphere. A company located in Nekoosa and Wisconsin Rapids pollutes the air seven days a week, 365 days a year. In an area with little impact on the atmosphere other than those plants, it is a big influence on the climate change in Wisconsin. But worldwide things are a little different. What is causing hurricanes to occur more often, drought seasons, and the melting of ice caps? The temperature of the earth due to civilization and factories are what I believe is the basis behind rapid tropical storms and rising oceans melting ice caps.
Being a big hunter and advocate of the outdoors, I have seen the greatest impact of climate change in that area. I hunt on a farm where the farmer plants crops year after year. Talking with him, he has experienced over 30 years of farming and agriculture himself and another 15 years as a kid growing up on a farm. He said he is not certain climate change is the reason behind some of his troubles, but the weather has certainly been different the last seven to ten years. Crops have not been growing as well and storms have kept piling in to keep him out of the field. This causes farmers around the state to want to create something that allows them to have a good harvest, chemicals. When rain and storms come, it washes the chemicals down into local streams and rivers. This gets evaporated into the atmosphere and causes acid rain, which ruins buildings and crops. It is a big circle which never stops, causing concern to all on how we as a population can slow down climate change.
Hunting has been a way of life for my family, usually making up for at least twenty five percent of our year’s food supply. We have been in the woods now for seven to ten years, watching the crops differ each year. Before then, my father has been a hunter since he was twelve, now fifty-one. That is just short of forty years in the woods, watching the weather patterns change. He said, “There have been years of three feet of snow before November and here we are today hunting in fifty-degree temperatures, something is obviously different now.” We have seen the failure to germinate crops, corn not grow completely, and beans die off. Some years, drought blankets the region and suffocates the land to the point where water is running straight through the ground and not giving anything to the crops planted in it. Other years, rain is frequently dangerous. The ground is so saturated that the crops drown and it is a loss for the farmer and the animals living in that area.
The Department of Natural Resources in Wisconsin keep saying there are more deer in this area than there was twenty years ago, where are they? The deer and other animals are staying in the woods and natural habitats where climate change is least existent. This changes their food sources and other resources, they once depended on, and eventually changes our patterns of how we hunt them. It could eventually result in less deer being shot. It is not just the frequently produced storms or the warming of the earth’s surface that is defined as climate change. It has effect on organisms living here, too.
A combination of all these things may be the reason behind climate change, but we might never know the exact cognition to the crazy changes our world is experiencing. All we can do is try our best to stop the rapid advancement of climate change in our areas. Different ways of transportation have been invented and are now popular in highly populated areas; factories are making changes to the substances they put into the atmosphere; and farmers are trying to use natural ways to make their crops better. Climate change cannot be stopped, but little things here in Wisconsin like making hybrid cars more foreseeable in the future and putting limitations on gases made by factories that are put into the atmosphere can help get the ball rolling on bigger issues.
Jarod Whaley Tomah, Wisconsin 3rd Congressional District
I joined the Citizens’ Climate Lobby because I’m a Catholic, and our leadership has told us that taking care of our climate and resources is a moral imperative.
In addition, I saw the Inconvenient Truth movie by Al Gore, and it makes sense to work on something that 98% of scientists say is real. I also belong to a Climate Change Group with the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility and am a member of a Catholic Climate Change Group.
Since there is so much denial by our government, I am doing what I can to provide my members of Congress with accurate information. I am also doing the same with members of my community who deny the existence of human-caused climate change.
Mary Ann Krems Stevens Point, WI 3rd Congressional District