Governor Scott Walker Punts on Taking On Climate Change in Wisconsin’s State Budget and Other Walker Administration Decisions
While other countries and U.S. states struggle with the deadly and extremely negative economic costs of dangerous storms made worse by warming oceans and rising sea levels caused by increasing greenhouse gases concentrations in the atmosphere, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has taken a pass on including anything in his two-year budget about how or to what degree the State of Wisconsin might reduce its annual greenhouse gases emissions and better adapt to the changing climate predicted for the future in Wisconsin. Governor Walker’s two-year state budget was forwarded to the Wisconsin Legislature earlier this month for adoption by July 1, 2015.
Much of what the governor’s budget proposes for the state will exacerbate the world’s chances of ever reducing climate change, or global warming, to a safe level. Scientists now say the changing climate around the world (global warming) is overwhelmingly human-caused and will be disastrous for the planet if the amounts of fossil fuels (coal, oil, natural gas) we are now burning are not significantly reduced and in a timely manner – now! – worldwide, and deforestation, over has been done over the last 100 – 150 years is stopped. Forests sequester carbon dioxide (CO2) as they grow, which is also the most abundant of the greenhouse gases emitted during fuel combustion.
While Wisconsin did experience a costly drought two years ago, and suffered through two recent killing heat waves in 1995 and 2011, the state has generally been spared from such massive destruction and loss of life as occurred in the Philippine Islands caused by Typhoon Haiyan U.S. states under hit by Hurricanes Sandy Sandy, Katrina and Ike, Hurricane Irene and increasing torrential rains and flooding around the world, heavier snowfalls, and long lasting droughts in California, other western states, and other areas around the world.
The economic costs of these catastrophes, especially those occurring in the United States, negatively effects all states in the U.S. through increased prices of goods, higher insurance rates, and the overall health of the U.S. economy.
Instead of addressing the inevitable economic and environmental effects of climate change and its causes in Wisconsin, Governor Walker instead chose to include in his two year budget proposal for the state many action items that, if enacted into law by the Wisconsin Legislature will, without question, add to the already abhorrently high human, economic and environmental costs of change climate here in Wisconsin and throughout the rest of the world. For example, Governor Walker’s two-year budget, which would begin taking effect in July 2015, expands numerous major highways in the state to increase their capacity to accommodate increased driving of cars and trucks, the vast majority of which burn fossil fuels. The governor’s budget proposes to contribute millions of dollars in state bonding to help the privately owned Milwaukee Bucks build a new arena for NBA games, games that require thousands of miles of jet travel each year for each visiting team as well as their fans and supporting personnel, adding measurably to rising volumes of greenhouse gases linked with global warming.
Furthermore, by not proposing other actions, many additional sources of greenhouse gases and pollution will continue and undoubtedly increase significantly in the next two years under the Walker administration and the current Republican legislature. Due to the lower price of crude oil, prices of fuel at the pump have dropped, leading to the purchase of less fuel efficient SUVs and trucks.
Americans and Wisconsinites need to drastically reduce their annual driving miles, and Governor Walker’s budget should have included positive financial benefits to encourage people to drive fewer and fewer miles each year, and compensate those individuals and Wisconsin families who manage to drive less miles, annually, than average – especially those individuals and families who don’t drive personal automobiles or fly airplanes (jet fuel is a fossil fuel and jets burn tons of fuel on each trip) during the year. The emission of greenhouse gases (GHGs) to the atmosphere from motorized transportation, jets, other internal combustion engines, as well as GHGs emitted from coal, oil, and natural gas burning power plants and household and business furnaces is “cumulative”, meaning the various emission of those gases accumulate in the atmosphere over time, rising to higher and higher levels of concentration in the atmosphere.
Scientists the world over have reached a level of consensus that the amount of GHGs present in the atmosphere are becoming increasingly of concern, more threatening each year that global warming worsens. Eventually, global warming could reach, or is close to reaching, its “tipping point” in the atmosphere – a level of accumulation of GHGs in the atmosphere after which the earth’s natural systems could keep adding more and more GHGs into the atmosphere, the point at which continued warming would become inevitable, regardless of what we humans do to reduce our GHG emissions. For example, as the permafrost region of the planet thaws (1/5 of earth’s surface exists in the form of permafrost), the GHG methane is released from the rotting permafrost. Methane is a much more potent GHG than CO2, and when the permafrost begins to thaw extensively, it will be releasing massive amounts of methane to the atmosphere, This would make matters much worse, because global warming would become less responsive, if responsive at all, to the amount of GHGs we humans cause to be emitted (or not to be emitted).