Purging DNR’s Website Doesn’t Change Climate Facts

Last week, we shared our resolution to stand up for science in 2017, after the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources changed their website to reflect an incorrect and politically motivated stance on climate change. Yesterday CFL director, Steve Carpenter, and six other distinguished UW-Madison faculty published a letter that has already been picked up by both local and national outlets. Here is the letter in its entirety:

January 6, 2017
In late December, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources altered and removed information on its website concerning climate change, its impacts, and ways to mitigate and adapt to those impacts (http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/greatlakes/climatechange.html).
Before the change, the introductory statement read: “Earth’s climate is changing. Human activities that increase heat-trapping (‘greenhouse’) gases are the main cause.”
Afterwards, it read: “As it has done throughout the centuries, the earth is going through a change. The reasons for this change at this particular time in the earth’s long history are being debated and researched by academic entities outside the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.”
The original wording accurately reflected our knowledge about climate change and its causes, emphasizing the need for the Wisconsin DNR to focus on climate change impacts to protect and manage Wisconsin’s natural resources. The revised statement fails to mention either human-caused climate change or science, but manages to imply that changes in climate are natural, mysterious, and driven by causes that still stir debate among climate scientists. In fact, the revised version is simply incorrect. We know that climates are getting warmer, often wetter, and with more extreme events such as heat waves, droughts, and floods. Greenhouse gases created by burning fossil fuels are driving these dramatic and accelerating changes in climate. The consensus on this is clear among climate scientists, within the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, and on websites of environmental agencies in surrounding states.
As a public agency, the Wisconsin DNR is responsible for managing our state’s natural resources and protecting the health and welfare of its citizens, forests, waters, and wildlife. Rapid changes in climate are threatening public health, safety, and natural resources. Failing to accurately inform the public about these threats and the opportunities to reduce them, violates the trust we place in our public institutions. Even more disturbing, the Wisconsin DNR is repudiating its own long-standing tradition of applying the best available science in the public interest.
The DNR has a distinguished tradition of working with colleagues at the state’s universities and the broader scientific community; for example, their recent WICCI (Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts ) collaboration in research and assessment (http://www.wicci.wisc.edu/). These partnerships must continue if we are to develop tools and approaches to protect and manage our natural resources while major changes in climate are occurring.
Wisconsin’s natural resources are being affected by climate change, and these impacts are increasing.
* Warmer conditions, especially in winter, are dramatically reducing the duration of ice cover, giving ice fishers less time to fish.
* Deer hunters are finding less snow on the ground during the gun season.
* Many brook trout streams are threatened by a warming climate.
* In lakes, dominance by the coolwater walleye is shifting to dominance by the warmwater largemouth bass.
* Several popular game species, like the ruffed grouse, are shifting their ranges northward and becoming less abundant.
* Increases in extreme rain events are increasing runoff from farm fields into downstream waterways and lakes, reducing water quality.
* High temperatures worsen health-damaging smog (ozone). The hot summer of 2012 produced very high ozone levels, worsening asthma and harming crops.
* Some key forest trees are declining in a warming Wisconsin, and the season for timber harvesting is getting shorter.
* Several tree species are threatened as warming allows more pest insects and diseases to move north.
The Wisconsin DNR has a responsibility to accurately inform the public about the challenges presented by climate change. Ignoring facts and this responsibility, hobbles the state agency entrusted to manage natural resources and protect the public. It also portrays the Wisconsin state government as anti-science.
Aldo Leopold’s 130th birthday is January 11. As one of Wisconsin’s preeminent conservationists he was adamant that natural resource management must be guided by science and ethics, saying “The hope of the future lies not in curbing the influence of human occupancy – it is already too late for that – but in creating a better understanding of the extent of that influence and a new ethic for its governance.” (Aldo Leopold)
Signed: Stephen R. Carpenter, John E. Kutzbach, John J. Magnuson, Monica G. Turner, Jonathan A. Patz, Stanley A. Temple and Donald M. Waller (University of Wisconsin-Madison faculty members)


14 thoughts on “Purging DNR’s Website Doesn’t Change Climate Facts”

  1. A great letter to reinforce that America is the great nation it has always been. Stand up for what is right. The science and technology created by your citizens over the last 200 years has always been founded on facts, evidence and innovation. Why change that culture? There is no reason to change the climate change message from what is right and true to a version of an ephemeral public relations message. I applaud your organization and signatories in standing up for science and truth.

  2. I am so proud of these UW faculty member for standing up for the truth, defending the value of science, and of intellect in general. These are very dark times, when money, and power grabbing seem to overshadow the most common sort of good sense. The fitness of our environment must be one of our paramount concerns, and the focus of our concerted efforts. Clearly political pressure was the undermining cause for the revisionist language. Our experts, the public, and public agencies must resist capitulating on such a gravely important matter. Thank you for speaking out.

  3. Thank you for doing the right thing. Science is science and facts are facts. I hope that more institutions demonstrate your courage and commitment.

  4. Thanks, and glad to stand with you and all the other Capital area climate truth-ists. We must make 2016 the last year that GOP electeds are allowed to foist Orwellian climate doublespeak on us.
    Next, UW-Madison scholars need to stand with those of us who have pointed out that a primary climate disruption threat to the Capital area: A catastrophic “rain bomb” falling over an un-natural Lake Mendota managed at 5 feet higher than its 1830s (natural) level. Besides being a huge public safety risk, the economic devastation of a storm like the one that “rained bombed” northern WI this past summer would be in the hundreds of millions of dollars. The expense likely will include the undoing of all those tens of millions about to be spent on dredging legacy sediment on stream beds, as lake reflux simply pushes sediments and nutrients upstream.

  5. Respect for science, investigation, and facts. Seeking to improve our understanding – and to share it – so that we may better navigate our future and manage for the best interests of our planet and our citizens. Not long ago I would have thought, “who can not be for that?” I actually do still think that – though now the facts show I’m wrong. So I am buoyed and very much appreciate this letter and its authors. This is the Wisconsin I so love and respect.

  6. I would rely less on the “all scientists are in agreement” position, as it carries the implication that no further research is needed, and there is no room for discussion. That’s not science, that’s politics. Instead, we should publish findings and data, and put forth convincing arguments. “Consensus” is not a convincing argument.

  7. I am not a scientist but I understand enough to heartily stand with the scientists that wrote this letter. We are entering an age of “alternate facts” that we simply can not afford.
    Rolf Jander.
    Surrey BC.

  8. Climate change affects people with asthma quite a bit, I know from experience. Increasing the concentration of ozone in the air has a negative effect on asthma.

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