The website of Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources no longer says that humans and greenhouse emissions cause climate change.
The new language says that causes of global warming are “are being debated and researched by academic entities.” It is not true that the causes of global warming are being heavily debated. Almost all climate scientists already agree that human-made greenhouse gases are responsible for climate change, and that global warming is a pressing issue. Before the revision, the site’s text reflected that consensus, saying “human activities that increase heat–trapping ("green house") gases are the main cause.”
DNR spokesperson Jim Dick told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel in an email that the “updated page reflects our position on this topic that we have communicated for years, that our agency regularly must respond to a variety of environmental and human stressors from drought, flooding, wind events to changing demographics.” This does not address the question of why the new language implies that we do not know what causes climate change.
This is the latest anti-environment move from Wisconsin’s government, which has de-emphasized global warming since Republican Gov. Scott Walker took office in 2011. For example, the DNR site once had a lot of information from a 2008 Task Force on Global Warming. That’s no longer there. Walker has also introduced legislation to block clean energy, resisted Obama’s Clean Power Plan, and postponed pollution standards.
So far, Wisconsin is the only state that appears to be revising its website, but more states could follow suit now that it’s clear climate science will be attacked under President-elect Donald Trump. Many scientists have said that his environmental plans are a disaster. Trump has called climate change a “Chinese hoax,” appointed climate denier Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency, asked for the names of climate change workers from the Energy Department (though he later backed down).
The good news is that there are people trying to fight back. Energy Department officials refused to give Trump the name of climate change workers, and scientists are scrambling to save government climate-change data before Trump is sworn in. These researchers are the ones who need all the help they can get with rebuffing Trump. The last thing we need are state agencies themselves lead the way in denying science.