Once it was considered the gold standard, but these days the so-called scientific consensus of support for United Nations’ claims about global warming – it is very real, manmade, and will be catastrophic in a matter of decades – is unraveling at the seams.
No matter. That hasn’t stopped an array of Wisconsin state agencies, led by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, from doggedly pushing the political agenda behind it. The DNR is especially enmeshed in outdated climate-change projections, using them to calibrate decision-making on matters ranging from master planning to land use to land purchases to rare species management, dam removal, and rule-making.
What’s more, the DNR is refusing to answer specific questions about its embrace of now disputed U.N. projections. In November this newspaper asked the agency a series of specific questions about its U.N.-driven policies, and the agency refused to answer a single one.
Among the questions: Why is the agency actively pursuing policy goals in 2013 based on outdated and inaccurate 2007 climate-change assessments? Why is the DNR continuing to promote in classrooms, on its website and in public presentations the U.N. 2007 climate-change assessment, without equally offering alternative points of view? Why did the agency tell this newspaper in 2011 it had stopped issuing a teachers’ guide based on the 2007 U.N. assessments, when it continues to do so? Is there any concern about the use of taxpayer facilities and dollars for an unproven and increasingly disputed political agenda, which the DNR continues to do?
Instead of answering those specific questions, the DNR defaulted to a generic answer for all of them, issued by agency spokesman Bill Cosh this past weekend:
“It is not DNR’s role to confirm nor deny climate change or its potential causes,” Cosh said. “However, it is the agency’s responsibility to adjust management strategies and decisions in response to changing environmental conditions, no matter the source. Therefore, DNR has several adaptation strategies in place to help guide management practices when there is evidence of changing environmental conditions.”
All of which begs the question – which was asked but not answered – is the DNR “adjusting management strategies and decisions” based on the most extreme and increasingly debunked global-warming predictions, and, if so, are they reconsidering and why or why not?
In other words, does Cosh’s generic statement float in a sea of specificity, or does it sink like a stonewall in water?
Let’s take a look.
The missing link
In Wisconsin, the link to the United Nations global-warming agenda – a call for massive carbon emissions taxes and cap-and-trade in industrialized nations, effectively transferring wealth, power and manufacturing to the Third World – is the Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts.
As the group’s website states, WICCI was formed in 2007 by the DNR and the University of Wisconsin Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies. According to the website’s narrative, the echoes of which can be heard in Cosh’s statement, the Nelson Institute had been approached by several state legislators “who wanted to understand the impact of climate change on their constituents. DNR staff wanted to understand impacts on the state’s natural resources, so they could make better management decisions.”
Thus was the prelude to an aggressive push for the UN’s climate-change agenda, paralleled by an ambitious plan to implement Wisconsin’s own emissions cap-and-trade program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 75 percent by 2050. The Doyle administration embraced that proposal, though it later died in the Legislature.
But the lack of public support, and the shrinking scientific accord, hasn’t stopped the WICCI from pursuing the U.N. holy grail – along with a different political strategy called climate-change adaptation – and the state, despite the election of Gov. Scott Walker, is still in the climate-change thicket.
For example, the DNR logo is still prominently displayed at the bottom of the WICCI website’s home page, as is that of the Nelson Institute. And WICCI offers up other state “collaborators” – 13 agencies in all, 12 in addition to the DNR, among them the Commissioner of Insurance, the Wisconsin Conservation Congress, the Wisconsin Council on Forestry, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, the Department of Health Services, Wisconsin Emergency Management, the Wisconsin Geological and Natural History Survey, and the Public Service Commission.
So just what is WICCI and its state collaborators proposing for Wisconsin?
A good starting point is WICCI’s 2011 climate-change report, produced by the Nelson Institute and the DNR. Indeed, the DNR’s fingerprints are all over the document.
For instance, the report’s managing editor was Elizabeth Katt-Reinders, then of the DNR. She was also the report’s lead author. At the time she worked as a DNR publications editor; she now works with the Clean Lakes Alliance.
The report’s editorial team included the DNR’s Richard Lathrop, John Sullivan, Dreux Watermolen and David Webb. Among contributing authors, the DNR tallied nine of 28 contributors. Lathrop, a research limnologist, Sullivan, director of the DNR’s bureau of integrated science services, and Darrell Zastrow, a deputy division administrator for the DNR’s forestry division, served as science council members for the report.
That document, which focuses on climate-change impacts and adaptive strategies, fashions its climate-change predictions straight from the 2007 proceedings of the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
For example, the report states, “WICCI climate projections have been made using the (high end, low end and middle) carbon emissions scenarios developed by the (2007) Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Projections shown in this report represent only the (middle) scenario, which assumes continued reliance on fossil fuels.”
The prediction is for dramatic, almost cataclysmic, temperature change, among other things.
“Future projections of temperature and precipitation patterns for Wisconsin were created by University of Wisconsin Madison climate scientists using 14 ‘downscaling’ global circulation models,” the WICCI report stated. “Their work indicates that Wisconsin’s warming trend will continue and increase considerably in the decades ahead. By the middle of the century, statewide annual average temperatures are likely to warm by 6-7°F.”
By mid-century, the report continues, seasonal temperature increases would be the greatest in winter, followed by spring and fall, then by summer.
“For example wintertime temperatures are likely to increase by about 8°F with slightly warmer temperature increases in northwestern Wisconsin,” the report stated.
An increase in extreme storms is on the way, too, including heavy precipitation events, the report warned. A “heavy rainfall event” is considered two inches of rain in a 24-hour period; southern Wisconsin now has about 12 per decade; northern Wisconsin, seven.
“By the mid-21st century, Wisconsin will likely have two or three more of these intense events per decade, about a 25 percent increase in their frequency, with these changes concentrated in spring and fall,” the report stated. “The heaviest rainfall events will also increase slightly in magnitude, according to the models.”
About those models
The problem is, the 2007 models and U.N. report have been discredited, and it had been ridiculed by the time WICCI released its report in 2011.
In 2010, for example, the IPCC conceded it made a mistake in 2007 when it contended the Himalayan glaciers would melt by 2035. In addition, it misfired when it predicted rain-fed African crop yields would decline by up to 50 percent between 2000 and 2020 – a figure based on a nonpeer-reviewed paper and doubted by even the new lead author of the IPCC climate impacts team – and when it incorrectly put most of the Netherlands below sea level. What’s more, it incorrectly predicted increasing intensity in cyclones.
In a new report issued by the IPCC last month, the UN scaled back its temperature projections, in a slight nod to a growing concern over the “models,” even by those who believe in the science of global warming. IPCC scientists themselves conceded that the rate of warming had “been less than the previous report.”
A lot less, in fact. In the new report, the warning about super hurricanes vanished completely and, the panel acknowledged, temperatures increased over the past 15 years at only a quarter of the rate of the previous assessment.
“The rate of warming over the past 15 years (is) 0.05ºC per decade ... smaller than the rate calculated since 1951,” the report stated. In 2007, the panel said the rate of warming was .2ºC per decade in 1990-2005, and confidently projected that trendline to continue for the next two decades, based on those ‘scenarios’ and models WICCI and the DNR have adopted for Wisconsin.
However, the latest 15-year period trashed the trendline, warming at only 25 percent of the expected rate. Not to be totally put off by the evidence, the IPCC dialed back the likely temperature scenario for the next 70 years, but only by 25 percent.
The more draconian temperature measures and predictions disappeared, in other words, leaving some believers in global warming, such as Hans von Storch, a German climate scientist and professor at the Meteorological Institute of the University of Hamburg, concerned about the modeling.
Specifically, von Storch said, a 15-year hiatus in rising temperatures cast suspicion upon the digital scenarios.
“If things continue as they have been, in five years, at the latest, we will need to acknowledge that something is fundamentally wrong with our climate models,” von Storch said in an interview this past June with Der Spiegel. “A 20-year pause in global warming does not occur in a single modeled scenario. But even today, we are finding it very difficult to reconcile actual temperature trends with our expectations.”
Except for WICCI, which apparently has no problem reconciling actual temperature trends with its dramatic forecasts and which, so far, has not adjusted its local projections for the new report.
Indeed, its website mentions nothing about the new calculations. Instead, it continues to pitch the report as “a resource for business executives, government, natural resource managers, public health officials and other decision makers as they take strategic steps to preserve jobs, invest resources wisely, build resiliency and protect our built and natural environment in the face of a changing climate.”
Its website, too, touts a new video narrated by Dan Vimont, an assistant professor at the UW-Madison’s Center for Climatic Research. Vimont observes an average annual temperature rise of 1 degree F between 1950 and 2006 but continues to assert that – based on “the world’s best computer models” – the average temperature will jump between 4 degrees F and 9 degrees F by the middle of the century, a mere 36 years away.
The question is, which the WICCI does not entertain on its website, if its forecasts are based on the 2007 IPCC models, and those models are wrong, where does that leave the WICCI?
The difference is critical. For one thing, the 15-year hiatus in temperature increases despite record amounts of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere during that time, combined with the UN’s own modest retreat, means the dramatic temperature increases predicted by WICCI in 2011 and repeated even now are almost certainly wrong, and likely far-fetched, almost absurdist.
The DNR’s involvement
Nonetheless, the DNR has continued to be involved in the WICCI projections at a critical level since the beginning of the Walker administration, and the agency’s stance is apparently not to talk about revising the data.
Specifically, The Times asked the agency if there had been any discussions within the DNR about updating the temperature forecasts to reflect the new, more correct temperature trend.
Cosh did not directly address the question except to say it was the agency’s responsibility to adjust management strategies and decisions in response to changing environmental conditions, but the agency’s actions suggest no adjustments since new data has confirmed a virtual pause in warming.
For example, as late as August 2011, Lathrop was pitching the WICCI climate projections at a presentation at the UW-Stevens Point. The DNR’s Tim Asplund was doing the same thing in March of that year at a meeting of the Wisconsin chapter of the American Planning Association.
And what is the DNR teaching new employees? In October, 2012, Asplund, who is the chief of the DNR Water Resources Monitoring Section, conducted a presentation for new DNR employees that started with a 2007 IPCC quote: ”Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global mean sea level.”
He went on to pitch the 2007 IPCC temperature projections, the 2011 WICCI assessment report, and WICCI itself.
A new phase
In 2013, the WICCI entered what it calls Phase II, and the DNR remains at the center of its activities.
“WICCI’s first phase ended with the publication of Wisconsin’s Changing Climate: Impacts and Adaptation, in 2011,” WICCI’s website states. “Interest in climate change impacts and adaptation is growing, so in the spring of 2013, another ad hoc group worked to develop a strategic plan for WICCI’s second phase. It will be implemented in the summer and fall of 2013.”
As of this year, WICCI’s science council meetings continue to be held on state property, at the DNR’s science operations center. Meetings were scheduled for March 4 and May 6 of 2013.
That raises concerns about the use of taxpayer facilities and dollars for an unproven and increasingly disputed political agenda – a concern this newspaper asked the agency if it shared. The question was ignored.
Despite this, some environmentalists have complained the agency is backtracking on climate change since Walker took office, and they have some evidence at their disposal. The climate-change presentations by DNR promoted by WICCI on its website ended in 2012, for instance.
Not only that, but a number of climate-change pages have disappeared from the DNR’s website after a wholesale renovation of the site last year. Among them, pages on climate basics, climate trends, impacts and adaptations either moved or hit the virtual waste basket when the new website was unveiled.
The question is, is the agency backing away from the climate-change enthusiasm of the Doyle era or merely becoming stealthier in the promotion of its activism with Walker in office?
The evidence suggests the latter. The WICCI promotion of DNR climate-change presentations may have stopped, but a closer looks reveals them to be still taking place.
Then, too, dial on over to the DNR’s website and specifically to its climate change page, and one will find the agency still embracing the U.N.’s 2007 policy agenda and projections and still proclaiming its partnership as a current effort. They’re just downplaying it with fewer pages.
“WICCI formed in 2007 and is a partnership between the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies,” the website proclaims. “The goal of WICCI is to assess and anticipate climate change impacts on Wisconsin’s natural resources, ecosystems, regions and industries (including agriculture, tourism and other human activities) and develop and recommend adaptation strategies that can be implemented by businesses, farmers, public health officials, municipalities, wildlife managers and other stakeholders.”
Lest there be any doubt, the page was updated on June 18, 2012, right after the governor won his recall election.
But there’s more.
Despite denials, the DNR continues to promote on its website a teacher’s guide to climate change, which the agency distributes to educators as a printed booklet upon request. It can also be downloaded.
The guide, which is aimed at students in the seventh through twelfth grades, begins by regurgitating the very same quote from the 2007 IPCC report that Asplund used for new employees:
“Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice and rising global average sea level,” the guide quotes the IPCC, ignoring the lack of any significant rising temperatures over the past 15 years.
The guide then harkens back to quote former Gov. Jim Doyle.
“The scope and consequences of global warming are so massive that the responsibility for action rests not only with our leaders in Washington, but with all of us,” Doyle tells the teachers.
In the beginning, the study guide does acknowledge other causes of global warming – variations in the Earth’s orbit, solar radiation – but quickly moves on to greenhouse gas emissions as the principal cause. Indeed, the guide teaches, global warming “refers to human-induced warming trends in the climate.”
Behind door number 1 ...
And what are the solutions to this crisis?
The DNR study guide quickly zeroes in on radical reductions in carbon emissions. And that, the DNR teaches, is a “scientific consensus.”
“In order to slow climate change, a consensus has emerged among scientists, policymakers, and the public that people need to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels,” the study guide states. “Using alternative energy sources that emit no or few greenhouse gases will allow people to shift to a new way of living that better protects the global climate. In addition to solar, wind, and hydroelectric, alternative energy sources, biomass, and biofuel are receiving increased attention.”
The guide goes on to compare the positive and negative aspects of different types of energy but the theme is constant: The dire effects of climate change demand immediate changes in the way we all live.
“Real-world problems like global climate change are complex,” the guide states. “They are as much about society, economics, and culture as they are about science. They tug at people’s values and demand changes in how we live. They affect people’s livelihoods, hobbies, lifestyles, and health.”
Not surprisingly, the climate change guidebook constantly paints a drastically negative picture of traditional energy systems, and rosier portrayals of alternative energy sources. It stamps the document with an alternative energy bias, in other words.
For example, in the section on what causes air pollution, the guidebook first sets out to define pollution itself. Pollution has certain characteristics, the DNR explains. In addition to negatively affecting the quality of life, some of the characteristics include being human-made; human beings have control over it; it contrasts with the natural landscape; and it consumes an unreasonable amount of non-renewable energy.
Why nonrenewable energy is unreasonable, or the amount making it unreasonable, is not quantified. And the definition stands even though the guide grudgingly concedes there are natural causes of pollution.
Still, those pale next to greenhouse gas emissions and the suggested student exercises instruct students to measure the polluting effect of such emissions.
In the next section, the climate guide notes the relative inexpensive nature of fossil-fuel energy but then stresses the negative impacts: “Burning fossil fuels creates pollution – carbon dioxide (CO2), sulphur oxides (SOx), and nitrogen oxides (NOx) that can contribute to smog, acid rain, and global climate change. Also, to obtain the fossil fuels, we have to destroy portions of our environment and disrupt landscapes. An example would be strip mining for coal.”
And, while there are some negative aspects to renewable resources such as biomass and biofuels, these are better than burning fossil fuels, the guide states.
“While burning biomass and biofuels does produce some air pollution, it has less impact on climate change than burning fossil fuels because of its shorter carbon cycle,” the guide states.
Not mentioned except in the most generic sense is the pollution caused by alternative energy industries such as wind farms, with the noise pollution, sprawl and dangers to birds posed by them, or the biomass industry, which also emits carbon dioxide and accelerates forest harvesting, or the current lack of economic sustainability of all alternative energy industries.
Student exercises, too, focus on the negative effects of fossil fuels: “Discuss the link between climate change and energy production (see background material),” the guide instructs. “Explain the first step in reducing our energy use, and thus our personal contributions to greenhouse gases and other pollutants, is to be aware of the way we currently use energy.”
In student exercises, the guide repeatedly refers students and teachers to news media outlets long supportive of U.N. climate change gospel.
“Along with other resources, look for a U.S. EPA download (www.epa.gov) on sugar maple habitat shifts, an October 2007 National Public Radio Morning Edition story, and a June 2007 report from USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service,” the guide suggests.
The guide also instructs teachers to get students to make environmental pledges, such as replacing incandescent light bulbs with compact florescent bulbs, eating more locally grown food, driving less, and “educate others on climate change.”
As for the DNR management team installed when Walker became governor, they have long claimed to abandon the climate-change handbook, according to DNR spokesman Cosh in October 2011.
“You had asked about the Climate Change Handbook,” Cosh told The Lakeland Times then. “I checked. We are no longer promoting or distributing it.”
But there it is on the website – and on the newly redesigned website that jettisoned many pages – offering downloads and shipments of printed copies.
There’s a lot more than the teachers’ guide at work on the DNR website, though, and those will be discussed in future articles.
Richard Moore may be reached at email@example.com