DNR’s shift in climate change tone misleading, unacceptable
To the Editor:
In late December, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR), whose stated mission is to protect and enhance our natural resources and provide a healthy, sustainable environment, removed any reference to human activity as a fundamental cause of climate change.
They replaced previous, scientifically-accurate statements with vague phrases such as: “the earth is going through a change as it has done throughout the centuries” and “the reasons for this change at this particular time in the earth’s long history are being debated and researched …”
This is so misleading as to be untrue. The world’s scientific community is nearly unanimous in recognizing that human activity is the principle cause of current global climate change. The alterations in the DNR’s website are more than just an issue of semantics.
The changes essentially reject the role humans have in climate change and any responsibility for it. Unless we accept the overwhelming evidence that burning fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas) is the primary driver of climate change, then solutions will be focused on mitigating the effects, not on solving the problem.
The first thing firefighters do when they respond to a house fire is to be sure the gas is turned off. The DNR’s change in its website suggests that this agency, which has long prided itself for basing its policies and practices on good science, has chosen to ignore the science that has clearly identified our over-dependence and use of fossil fuel as the primary cause of climate change.
Currently, a few federal and state and many municipal governments, as well as a great many businesses in the private sector, are planning strategies for dealing with the impacts of climate change.
Those impacts – which include rising sea levels, increased prolonged periods of excessively high temperatures, more wildfires, more severe droughts, more severe storms, permafrost thawing and ocean acidification – are already significantly affecting our communities, economies and public health in negative ways.
We should be outraged when an agency that works for and is paid for by the people of Wisconsin blatantly chooses to ignore information that clearly establishes human activity as the primary cause of climate change, a fact that must be addressed if our children and grandchildren are to have an environment that is even close to that which we have enjoyed.
We expect our doctors to use the very best in scientific knowledge to help us when we get sick – not just treat our symptoms. The DNR should base their policies on the best science, as it has for many past decades. The DNR should not ignore our role in climate change, but lead the way in addressing the problem, with full acknowledgement of the primary cause.
University of Wisconsin Stevens Point (UWSP) emeritus professor of wildlife ecology
UWSP emeritus professor of forestry