Climate change is indisputable, despite political controversy

A statement from Nelson Institute Director Paul Robbins

January 11, 2017

Recent developments in state and national politics have put climate change in the spotlight. As stories circulate in the media regarding positions on climate change within Wisconsin state government and the incoming presidential administration, several news outlets have published statements about climate change that do not align with established fact. Some have questioned the quality and findings of climate science conducted at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The Nelson Institute strongly stands behind the world-class scientific research being done in its Center for Climatic Research as well as in other programs, departments, centers and laboratories across UW-Madison and our partner institutions. This work is conducted under longstanding, rigorous and accepted standards of scientific research and experimentation and is peer-reviewed by leading scientists from around the world.

So what are the facts?

What does climate change mean for Wisconsin?

Wisconsin’s climate has become warmer and wetter since the 1950s, a trend that is projected to continue through this century. These trends will have profound implications for human and natural systems.

The Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts (WICCI) formed in 2007 as a partnership between UW-Madison, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and other state campuses and agencies to study the potential consequences of climate change for the state’s economy, health, infrastructure and natural resources.

A few examples of the ways Wisconsin communities have benefited from this Wisconsin Idea partnership:

How would cuts in federal funding for climate research affect Wisconsin?

Wisconsin stands to lose millions of dollars annually if federal support for climate research is scaled back or eliminated.  For example, our Center for Climatic Research receives about 90 percent of its $3 million budget from federal sources.

Other research scientists across UW-Madison and other UW System campuses also draw millions of dollars to the state each year to study the causes and consequences of climate change. They work in a wide range of fields, including atmospheric physics, agricultural sciences, public health, economics, natural resource management, engineering and other disciplines.

These federal grants provide a significant number of jobs, and the money that flows into Wisconsin boosts local economies.

What does the future hold?

Climate change is one of the most critical issues facing humanity. It is vitally important that we understand its causes and consequences in order to inform decision-making at both state and national levels. Basing our public discourse on the best available science – on facts – is essential to safeguard our health, economy, infrastructure and natural resources. 

Scientists in the Nelson Institute and other UW-Madison units, along with colleagues in UW Extension and other UW System schools, have been working with municipal leaders, natural resource managers and others around the state to understand how our climate is changing and what actions might be advisable to adapt to change and protect the resources that our communities value. We are committed to continuing these partnerships, and to provide the highest-quality science to help our state’s citizens, businesses and government leaders make the best possible decisions in a changing climate.