WISCONSIN

WISCONSIN

With 5.9 million residents, Wisconsin is the 20th largest state in population and, in land area, the state’s 54,310 square miles make it the 25th largest in the nation. The meeting place of three major ecological zones: northern coniferous forests, prairies, and southern hardwood forests, Wisconsin also has wetlands and inexplicable sandstone buttes. It also borders two great lakes and has many smaller lakes itself, most carved by glaciers

Wisconsinites are already witnessing major change to their state’s climate, especially in regards to rising temperatures, drought, and flooding. Already 2°F warmer than it was in the beginning of the 20th century, and  predicted to warm by up to 11°F by mid-century, scientists predict that by 2050 Wisconsin will see two weeks per year with heat indexes above 100°F. Oddly, although Wisconsin is known for its sub-zero winters, extreme heat is actually the #1 weather-related cause of death in the state, accounting for more fatalities than all other weather disasters combined, including tornadoes, floods, and blizzards. 

Warmer air holds more water, leading to more precipitation, especially heavy precipitation. It is not surprising, therefore, that 2019 was the single wettest year on record for Wisconsin, along with the rest of the Midwest. Over the last 30 years, the region has seen a 15% increase in annual precipitation compared to the first half of the twentieth century. 2019’s downpours predictably led to major floods, costing the region $6.2 billion and at least four lives.

Although precipitation is expected to increase as a whole, Wisconsin is still facing a serious drought problem. There may not be more droughts than before, but when they occur they’ll be more intense than ever, only getting worse over time.

The heat, extreme rain, and harsh droughts have had a devastating effect on agriculture, one of Wisconsin’s most important industries, contributing more than $104.8 billion to the state economy. Over half of Wisconsin’s agricultural revenue comes from the dairy industry, which is seriously impacted by climate change because higher temperatures cause cows to eat less and produce less milk.

Wisconsin’s ecosystems are also under attack by climate change altering the composition of forests and threatening the habitat of endangered species such as the American marten.  Rising water temperatures will shrink the available habitat for cold water fish such as trout and declining ice cover and increasingly severe storms add to fish habitat challenges through erosion and flooding.

Climate change is also affecting the rhythm of Wisconsin’s natural systems, affecting the timing of natural processes such as migration, reproduction, and flower blooming. Migratory birds are arriving in the Midwest earlier in spring today than 40 years ago. Along with range shifts, the intricate web of relationships between animals and their food sources and between plants and pollinators are all being disrupted. Because not all species adjust to climate change in the same way, the food that one species eats may no longer be available when that species needs it (for example, when migrating birds arrive). Some types of animals may no longer be able to find enough food.

Fortunately, Wisconsin is taking actions to mitigate climate change. In 2019, Wisconsin’s governor passed an executive order making Wisconsin the first state in the Midwest to commit to going 100% carbon-free by midcentury. The executive order created novel energy efficiency standards for state facilities, as well as creating a new office, Office of Sustainability and Clean Energy, to find the solutions and technologies needed to execute this proposal. That includes training Wisconsin’s workforce to build the clean energy sector, as the order lays out.

In 2021, Madison, Wisconsin moved ahead and set goals to have 100% of its municipal operations’ run with renewable energy by 2030. In October 2021, Wisconsin joined the other Great Lakes states in a pledge to collaborate on the development and installation of electric vehicle charging infrastructure to help accelerate vehicle electrification across the Midwest.

Wisconsin does not have any fossil fuel resources of its own, so it ships in coal and natural gas, much of which comes from Wyoming and Montana. In 2020, down from a high of 82% in 1997, coal provided far less than half (39%) of Wisconsin’s electricity generation. Natural gas fueled 35% of Wisconsin’s in-state utility-scale generation, almost four times more than a decade earlier. Nuclear power is next at 16%, and 10% of Wisconsin’s energy comes from renewable energy resources, including hydropower (5%), wind (3%), biomass (2%), and solar (0.5%). Wisconsin is among the top 10 ethanol-producing states in the nation due to its corn production. Wisconsin produces about 600 million gallons of fuel ethanol every year, and ships much of it across state lines.

Despite its frigid winters, Wisconsin’s energy consumption per capita is less than that of 2/5 of the states and only slightly above the national average. The industrial sector accounts for one-third of the energy consumed in the state, the transportation sector and the residential sector each use nearly one-fourth, and the commercial sector consumes one-fifth.

Wisconsin is one of twenty four states, and Puerto Rico, committed to the U.S. Climate Alliance, which is working to implement policies that advance the goals of the Paris Agreement.

CURRENT NEWS

PLANS TO ACCELERATE RENEWABLES

Clean energy jobs poised for continued growth in Wisconsin

11/02/21
For the first time since Clean Jobs Midwest began tracking Wisconsin clean energy jobs in 2017, Wisconsin clean energy jobs declined during 2020’s pandemic-wracked economy. However, the second half of the year showed significant recovery and…

NextEra to offer Buckeye’s solar energy to SRP customers

10/07/21
Buckeye residents interested in energy reform have often pointed to the 295 average days per year of sunshine as to where to find more electricity. NextEra Energy Resources plans to take advantage of that sun.

Leaders of 5 Great Lakes states agree to cooperate on electric vehicle infrastructure

10/06/21
The governors of five Great Lakes states have agreed to collaborate on the development and installation of electric vehicle charging infrastructure to help accelerate vehicle electrification across the Midwest.

Jefferson Utilities celebrates Wisconsin’s newest solar energy project

10/04/21
Jefferson Utilities Senior Energy Services Manager Greg Hoffmann joined state leaders and executives from WPPI Energy and NextEra Energy Resources, LLC to celebrate the commissioning of Wisconsin’s newest large-scale solar energy project — the Point…

Grow Solar Central Wisconsin expands to Waushara County in its fifth year

09/18/21
Grow Solar Central Wisconsin is launching for its fifth year. The education and bulk purchasing program will help property owners in Lincoln, Marathon, Portage, Wood, and Waushara counties take advantage of competitive prices for solar…

New grants to help Wisconsin nonprofits purchase electric vehicles

04/13/21
RENEW Wisconsin launched the “EVs for Good” initiative in early April, a new program that provides nonprofit organizations with financial support for purchasing electric vehicles.

Alliant Energy Plans to Add Six Solar Projects in Wisconsin

04/05/21
Alliant Energy plans to add another 414 megawatts (MW) of solar in Wisconsin. This rounds out the company’s previously announced plan to accelerate its transition to clean energy by adding more than 1,000 MW of…

Alliant Energy Poised To Become Largest Owner-Operator Of Solar Power In Wisconsin

03/31/21
Madison-based Alliant Energy is set to become the largest owner and operator of solar power in Wisconsin under plans unveiled Wednesday. The utility is making good on its goal to build 1,000 megawatts of solar…

Organic Valley launches national clean energy fund for its farmers

By Martha Koloski 03/22/21
The nation’s largest organic, farmer-owned cooperative, Organic Valley in La Farge, announced a $1 million fund to help its farmers make clean energy improvements faster.  

Preparing for Climate Change in Wisconsin

08/30/20
This page provides an overview of the steps Wisconsin is taking to prepare for the impacts of climate change.

Milwaukee’s Leadership on Climate Change

03/21/19
Mayor Barrett has joined over 362 mayors to show that the City of Milwaukee remains committed to the principles of the Paris Climate Agreement. The Milwaukee City Council also unanimously passed Council resolution 170337 pledging…

Wisconsin’s Changing Climate: Impacts and Adaptation

03/21/19
The Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts has released its first comprehensive report, Wisconsin's Changing Climate: Impacts and Adaptation. The report will serve as a resource for business executives, government, natural resource managers, public health…

Wisconsin Climate and Health Adaptation Plan

03/20/19
The Wisconsin Department of Health Services has created a Climate and Health Adaptation Plan to assist state and local agencies in adapting to a changing climate.

KEY RESOURCES

Wisconsin Solar Panels: Pricing and Incentives

01/24/22
Wisconsin is no stranger to solar power. The state began investing in solar policies nearly four decades ago, and those investments have paid off. While Wisconsin still ranks among the middle of states for solar…

Wisconsin State Profile and Energy Estimates

10/19/21
Bordered by navigable waterways, Wisconsin lies between Lake Superior and Lake Michigan to the north and east and the Mississippi and Saint Croix rivers to the west. The glaciers that covered most of the state…

Energy State Bill Tracking Database

09/10/21
The searchable Energy Storage Legislation Database displays information in interactive maps and charts, tracking state activity from 2017 to the present.

Environment and Natural Resources State Bill Tracking Database

09/01/21
The National Conference of State Legislatures tracks environment and natural resources bills that have been introduced in the 50 states, territories and Washington, D.C.

The First National Flood Risk Assessment

10/06/20
The First Street Foundation Flood Model represents the culmination of decades of research and development made possible by building upon existing knowledge and frameworks regularly referenced in the identification of flood risk.

The State of Climate Adaptation in Public Health An Assessment of 16 U.S. States

10/06/20
EcoAdaptpartnered with the Natural Resources Defense Council to assess the state of climate adaptation planning and implementation for climate-related threats to public health in 16 U.S. states.

The Impacts of Climate Change and the Trump Administration’s Anti-Environmental Agenda in Wisconsin

09/19/20
Between 2017 and 2019, Wisconsin experienced one flood and three severe storms. The damages of each event led to losses of at least $1 billion.

State-by-State: Climate Change in Wisconsin

08/07/20
Climate and Energy Polling in Wisconsin

Climate Wisconsin

06/27/19
Climate Wisconsin is an educational multimedia project featuring stories of climate change. These stories are produced to support teaching and learning about climate change in Wisconsin.

Clean Wisconsin

05/28/19
From unsafe drinking water to disappearing lakes and streams to threats of increased air pollution, your natural resources and special places need protecting, now more than ever before. That’s where we come in. Using science,…

What Climate Change Means for Wisconsin

08/01/16
Wisconsin’s climate is changing. In the past century, most of the state has warmed about two degrees (F). Heavy rainstorms are becoming more frequent, and ice cover on the Great Lakes is forming later or…

MORE NEWS

Wisconsin could see major changes if Congress passes ‘Build Back Better’

By Eric Gunn  Photo: Adam Schultz   09/23/21  
In Washington, D.C., two intertwined pieces of legislation are ensnared in bickering among House and Senate Democrats while Republicans mostly look the other way. But this week, a pair of conversations 850 miles west of…

Lake Superior Has Seen Half A Dozen Blue-Green Algae Blooms This Year

By Danielle Kaeding  Photo: Brenda Lafrancois , National Park Service   09/20/21  
A decade ago, a blue-green algae bloom had never been reported on Lake Superior. Now, half a dozen blue-green algae blooms have been reported this summer across Lake Superior, including one that formed recently in Superior.…

Rural doctors see need to invest in people, fight climate change

By Joel Charles and Jeff Thompson   09/19/21  
Rural doctors have a unique view into people’s personal pain and struggles. In our exam rooms, we treat good, kind and hardworking people. Most of them are struggling to get by.

Wisconsin regulator withdraws from permitting decision in state’s largest clean energy project

By Chris Hubbuch   09/18/21  
A Wisconsin utility regulator with past ties to the clean energy industry will not participate in the permitting process for a controversial solar farm in southeastern Dane County.

Wisconsin regulators fund disaster-resilience efforts

By Chris Hubbuch  Photo: Amber Arnold, State Journal Archives   09/17/21  
The Wisconsin Public Service Commission has awarded almost $1 million to study projects designed to keep electricity flowing locally even during major disasters.

‘You’re wrecking my life’: Solar farm opponents question plans in town of Morgan

By Kent Tempus  Photo: Kent Tempus , USA Today Network   09/16/21  
A renewable energy company considering construction of a huge solar power array in the town of Morgan received a chilly reception at an informational session Wednesday night. Most of the just over 100 people who…

Wisconsin farmers to receive record-breaking support this year from USDA

By Jenna Bree  Photo: Jenna Bree   09/13/21  
In 2015, Mike Sievert was awarded nearly $16,000 from the USDA to purchase a grain dryer for his farm. “Things are changing fast, the way things are going right now," he said. "You hear a…

Why cities around Wisconsin are feeling the heat

By Bekah McBride  Photo: Unsplash/CC0 Public Domain   09/13/21  
While Wisconsin may be known for its "frozen tundra," an increase in hot, humid summer days is bringing attention to Wisconsin's urban heat islands and their impact on human health. A heat island is an…

Tribal members and scientists team up to figure out why Wisconsin’s wild rice population is declining

By Erin Gottsacker   09/10/21  
Water laps against a tangle of weeds at the shoreline of Flambeau Lake in Lac du Flambeau. Thick gray clouds hang overhead, but the weather doesn’t keep the wildlife at bay.

We can’t stop climate change by investing in fossil fuels

By Elizabeth Ward   09/09/21  
The latest report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reiterated what we already know: We need to be taking swift, bold action to address climate change.  If we don’t, the consequences…

Massive solar farm plan angers southern Wisconsin residents

By Chris Hubbuch  Photo: Colleen Kottke   09/08/21  
When Carissa and Nathan Lyle were expecting their first child in 2017, they bought an old farmhouse on about three acres just west of Rockdale. Nathan, a builder, gutted and remodeled the house and added…

Wisconsin regulators pass on policy changes, order further study of clean energy transition

By Chris Hubbuch  Photo : John Hart , State Journal Archives   09/03/21  
Wisconsin regulators have agreed to gather more information on the clean energy transition while passing up a range of suggested policy changes that could speed the state’s shift from fossil fuels.

Warmer And Wetter: Wisconsin’s Economy Is Already Suffering From The Impact Of Global Warming

By Wisconsin Public Radio   09/03/21  
Temperatures across the world are expected to rise past a level that scientists had hoped to avoid through drastic cuts in carbon emissions, according to a new report from a United Nations panel on climate…

‘Here we go again’: Driftless Region at watershed moment with flooding, climate change

By Olivia Herken  Photo: Angie Cina , Vernon County Times   08/14/21  
Last weekend as powerful, persistent rain fell and water began to rise across southwest Wisconsin, all Duke Welter could think was: “Here we go again.”

Global Warming Is Happening More Rapidly. Wisconsin Is Already Feeling It.

By Danielle Kaeding  Photo: Hope Kirwan , WPR   08/10/21  
Temperatures across the world are expected to rise past a level that scientists had hoped to avoid through drastic cuts in carbon emissions, according to a new report from a United Nations panel on climate change. Scientists…
wpr

Wildfires Degrading Air Quality In Wisconsin Are Driven By Climate Change

By Danielle Kaeding  Photo: Tom Boenigk   08/09/21  
Smoke has been funneling into Wisconsin at an unprecedented level due to wildfires and weather patterns, impacting air quality and sensitive groups. Researchers argue climate change is driving extreme heat that’s fueling wildfires and degrading…

Survey: Wisconsin Great Lakes Communities To Spend $245M To Repair Coastal Damage

By Danielle Kaeding  Photo: Shomas Teila   07/16/21  
Great Lakes communities in Wisconsin are estimating they will spend around $245 million over the next five years to repair coastal damage linked to climate change, according to a new survey from a group of…

U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson: Climate change is ‘bulls—‘

By Riley Vetterkind   07/08/21  
U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson told a group of Republican women last month that climate change is “bulls—-,” continuing the two-term senator’s increasing tendency to criticize the scientific community’s consensus on major issues. “I don’t know…

A Carbon Tax Will Make Infrastructure Sustainable

By Austin Ramirez   06/26/21  
Wisconsin’s infrastructure needs a makeover. More than 80% of our state’s roads are in poor condition — making them the worst in the nation. We’ll need $13 billion over the next decade to fund the…
AP

Biden administration passes up chance to block oil pipeline

06/25/21  
The Biden administration signaled in a court filing this week that it does not plan to cancel federal permits for Enbridge’s Energy’s Line 3 oil pipeline project, despite pleas by Native Americans and environmental groups for…

Heatwaves, Climate Change And The Electric Grid

By Rachael Vasquez  Photo: Robert F. Bukaty , AP   06/25/21  
Parts of the U.S. are enduring heatwaves, with temperatures in some states expected to stay at or above 100 degrees for days. We talk about how climate change fits into the picture, and how to…

Southeast Wisconsin Farmers Experiencing Intense Drought

By Audrey Nowakowsky and Jack Herbanis  Photo: Dave Kowzlowski , Pinehold Gardens   06/24/21  
In a normal year from the beginning of March to mid-June, southeast Wisconsin would expect to see around 15 inches of precipitation. So far in 2021, counties across the region have only seen around half…

Youth Climate Activism in Wisconsin

By Robinia Courtyard   06/24/21  
The climate crisis is here, and our future depends on solving it. While climate change poses an immediate threat to our global and local ecosystems, it is imperative that we consider its enduring effects on…

After Devastating Floods, Officials Hope Changes Have Made A Lake Superior Harbor More Resilient

By Danielle Kaeding   06/24/21  
Oronto Creek is hardly more than a trickle now as it bends along Saxon Harbor toward Lake Superior. But almost five years ago, the gentle stream resembled a raging river that scoured its marina and campground.

Environmental Advocates Push For Increased Investment In State’s Electric Car Infrastructure

By Hope Kirwan  Photo: Susan Walsh , AP   06/24/21  
A Wisconsin lawmaker and state climate groups are pushing for stronger clean car standards and new investment in electric vehicle infrastructure at the state and federal level.

Biden’s Budget Would Increase Funding For Great Lakes, Water Infrastructure

By Danielle Kaeding  Photo: Carolyn Kaster , AP Photo   06/03/21  
Advocates for the Great Lakes see President Biden’s budget and jobs plan as an opportunity to boost funding for restoration projects and outdated water infrastructure in the region. But, the president’s proposals face significant hurdles…

STUDY: AV Taxis Would Speed Up Climate Change

By Kea Wilson   06/03/21  
Worse, the study found that AVs could tempt erstwhile transit passengers to abandon fixed-route buses or their bikes, even in the transit-rich and Platinum Bicycle Friendly community of Madison.

Al Gedicks: Climate change threatens Wisconsin’s dams

By Al Gedicks   05/30/21  
May 31 is National Dam Safety Awareness Day. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources notes that this day was established to commemorate the 2,200 people who died in the 1889 South Fork Dam failure near…

New Monroe County Project Aims To Reduce Impacts Of Climate Change, Make Conservation Profitable

By Hope Kirwan  Photo: Hope Kirwan , WPR   05/10/21  
The Monroe County Climate Readiness and Rural Economic Opportunity Assessment is an eight-month project led by the county’s Climate Change Task Force and advocacy group Wisconsin’s Green Fire.

Ask the Weather Guys: Why do we have a new normal in weather?

By John Hart   05/10/21  
Why do we have a new normal in weather?A: The National Ocean and Atmosphere Administration’s National Climatic Data Center (or NCDC) calculates the average weather conditions over a 30-year period for more than 7,500 locations…

Climate change is bringing heavier rains. Here are steps Wisconsin communities are taking to combat flooding.

By Laura Schulte   05/09/21  
 Long before climate change became a global concern, this small southwestern Wisconsin community knew it had to do something to deal with persistent severe flooding.

NOAA releases new 30-year climate normals; Northeast Wisconsin generally warmer and wetter

By Phil DeCastro   05/05/21  
If you've ever heard us refer to "normal" snowfall or precipitation or "average" highs and lows, the numbers we're talking about are actually 30-year averages. For the last 10 years, that period ran from 1981…

Co-Op Offering Low-Interest Loans to Farms for Clean Energy Investments

By Jane Marsh   04/22/21  
Organic Valley, a Wisconsin-based co-op, is partnering with Clean Energy Credit Union to offer low-interest loans to farms for clean energy investments. The cooperative has been reliant upon renewables since 2019.

Chairwoman Marcelia Nicholson Calls for Milwaukee County to Go Carbon Neutral, Battle Climate Change

By Hayley Crandall   04/17/21  
The Committee on Parks, Energy, and Environment has recommended adoption of two climate change combat proposals sponsored by Chairwoman Marcelia Nicholson, a press release announced earlier this week.

Evers’ budget plan big on climate change measures

By WisPolitics.com   04/16/21  
Gov. Tony Evers’ budget includes some three dozen recommendations from his Climate Change Task Force, including tens of millions in new investments in green jobs, conservation efforts and renewable energy.

More clean energy to come to Wisconsin through American Jobs Plan

By Jenna Bree  Photo: Mario Tama , Getty Images   04/14/21  
President Joe Biden recently unveiled the second part of his Build Back Better agenda, the American Jobs Plan. The Need for Action in Wisconsin fact sheet lays out information on how the $2.7 trillion proposal would directly…

Wisconsin Medical Professionals Share Climate Change Concerns, Support Clean Energy Policy Changes

By Katie Thoresen   04/13/21  
Clean air, safe drinking water, and secure shelter can all impact a person’s health. They’re also all threatened by climate change.

Wisconsin Declares State of Emergency Due to High Wildfire Risk

By Olivia Rosane   04/06/21  
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers declared a state of emergency on Monday due to heightened wildfire risk.  

Evers directs millions for climate change initiatives in budget, putting focus on green energy in Wisconsin

By Laura Schulte   04/03/21  
Gov. Tony Evers is hoping to fight back against the effects of climate change on Wisconsin through millions of dollars for initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, promote clean energy and helping communities prepare for…

This is How Much Renewable Energy Wisconsin is Producing

By Samuel Stebbins and Grant Suneson   04/01/21  
Within weeks of taking office, President Joe Biden issued a series of executive orders aimed at making the U.S. carbon neutral by 2050. This goal hinges on eliminating greenhouse gas emissions in electricity production

A fight is brewing over an oil pipeline and it’s pitting Native groups against Big Oil

By Kailani Koenig and Cal Perry  Photo: Kailani Koenig   03/27/21  
On the edge of the Mississippi River in Northern Minnesota, Tania Aubid stares at the slushy waters that thaw a little more with every passing spring day. Once the river is no longer frozen, she’s…

WATCH NOW: ‘Wisconsin 7’ celebrates end of fast, which called attention to state budget, climate change

By Dan Truttschel  Photo: Dan Trutschell , Kenosha News   03/26/21  
Twenty-two days since it began, the group dubbed the “Wisconsin 7” put an end to its fast for climate change Friday morning.
VOX

The Indigenous-led fight to stop the Line 3 oil pipeline expansion in Minnesota, explained

By Jariel Arvin  Photo: Kerem Yucel/AFP via Getty Images   03/25/21  
“Valentine’s Day is about love and having that love for your partner — but for me to have the love, I need to start from the ground up, which is Mother Earth,” Aubid told me.…

Organic Valley Launches Loan Program For Clean Energy Projects On Farms

By Hope Kirwan   03/24/21  
A Wisconsin-based organic cooperative is offering farms low-interest loans to invest in clean energy projects.

Seven Wisconsin Activists Fast for Climate Justice

By Quinn Clark  Photo: Quinn Clark   03/22/21  
Whether it’s the middle of the day or the dead of night, long-time Milwaukee activist Tory Lowe says he doesn’t think twice when he gets a call asking for help. Over time, he’s realized that…

On day 15 of 22-day fast supporting climate change legislation, the ‘Wisconsin 7’ rally in Racine

By Dee Holzel  Photo: Sean Krajacic , Kenosha News   03/21/21  
 Friday was day 15 of a 22-day fast for seven people in southeast Wisconsin working to bring greater awareness to climate justice.

Climate change activists rally in Milwaukee to push funding for eco-friendly initiatives

By CBS 58 Newsroom   03/21/21  
Climate change activists rallied to push for funding for eco-friendly initiatives on Sunday, March 21.
CNN

As spring thaws the Minnesota ice, a new pipeline battle fires up

By Bill Weir   03/20/21  
In the north woods of Minnesota, the mighty Mississippi River looks like a frozen creek. After a bitter February, you can stroll across it with more fear of windburn than thin ice. And if you…

UW study: Climate change linked to longer ‘dead zones’ in lakes

By Shelby Evans   03/20/21  
A newly published study done on Lake Mendota says climate change is linked to longer lasting dead zones.

Why Line 3? Why now?

By Emily Atkin   03/15/21  
Tania Aubid has not eaten solid food for 26 days, but she still has energy to yell at the cops. “No jurisdiction!!” she bellowed at two passing sheriff vehicles on Thursday from a blue beach…