County Executive Parisi Creates New Dane County Climate Change Action Council
March 13, 2013
Carrie Springer, County Executive’s Office (608) 267-8823, or cell (608) 843-8858
Parisi Assembles Managers, Experts to Ensure Dane County is Climate Ready Community
Citing record heat waves, floods, droughts, and snowstorms in recent years, Dane County Executive Joe Parisi announced today he is convening a new council to ensure county government is better prepared for weather extremes brought on by global climate change. The effort is the first of its kind for a county in Wisconsin.
“Images of parched farm fields, flooded homes, wind damaged properties, and cars stranded in deep snow drifts are becoming too common to ignore the reality that super storms and other weather extremes are the new norm,” Parisi said. He noted data over the past several decades that show several clear trends:
-Increased frequency of days 90 degrees or hotter - - 24 more days a year of temps over 90
-A steady decline in the length of time in which Madison lakes are frozen over - - one month less of ice per winter than when the UW-Madison started compiling records
-A significant increase in annual rainfall totals, including a spike in the past decade of individual rain storms exceeding two inches
Parisi’s new Dane County Climate Change Action Council will include the County’s Emergency Management Director, Charles Tubbs, a national instructor on preparedness for the Federal Emergency Management Agency along with other key county managers whose operations might be affected by weather extremes resulting from climate change.
Parisi has tasked his new council with reporting to him within six months on recommendations of any changes or additional resources the county or its public safety partners may need to pursue to be better prepared to cope with changing climate.
“We want to know areas where we’re ready, areas where we may need to make some operational changes, and whether we have the right resources should our communities and citizens be afflicted by the unfortunate new norm of severe weather,” Parisi said.
David Liebl, a climate change outreach specialist with UW-Extension and a member of the Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts-Science Council, will facilitate the initial meetings of the Climate Change Action Council. Liebl has been working with communities and groups across the state to improve their understanding of climate change so they can be proactive in developing adaptation strategies for coping with extreme events.
Liebl was a contributing author for a report compiled by scientists across Wisconsin entitled “Wisconsin’s Changing Climate: Impacts and Adaptation.” That report predicts that Wisconsin's annual average temperature is likely to warm by 4-9 degrees within the next few decades and that intense rain events will become more frequent. The report concludes that more heavy winter and spring precipitation, combined with little change in total summertime rainfall and higher temperatures, will increase the likelihood of summer droughts.
“Whether its flooding rains that damage homes and cover roads and bridges, or severe droughts and heat waves that result in millions of dollars in crop losses to our agricultural economy, I want to make sure that county government is ready with contingencies to respond and be helpful as these situations arise,” Parisi said.
Dane County’s weather was especially unpredictable in 2012. Record-breaking temperatures in March were followed by a killing cold snap in April followed by a heat wave in July with temperatures over 100 degrees for a number of days producing extreme drought conditions. Dane County had 39 days of 90 degrees or hotter in 2012.
The County Executive also announced today that he is assigning the County’s Departments of Administration and Public Works to initiate an analysis of how effective county-led efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions have been to date. This includes work the county has done to improve building energy efficiency, capture methane gas from its landfill, convert vehicles to renewable fuels and the development of two new “Cow Power” manure digester facilities in the Lake Mendota watershed. Parisi also asked the group to develop a roadmap to further reduce these emissions over the next several years.
“Global climate change is a much bigger challenge than just what happens here in Dane County, but we have a long progressive tradition of being pioneers and groundbreakers,” Parisi said. “Once again, our county has an opportunity to lead and set the bar higher and I look forward to seeing specific recommendations on the steps Dane County can take to be part of this solution.”