Gov. Evers, activists tackle climate change

By: - August 19, 2019 12:10 pm
Gov. Tony Evers standing outside

Gov. Tony Evers (courtesy of Evers for Wisc)

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers has signaled his support for tackling climate change with an executive order. The recent action sets a goal for Wisconsin to transition to 100% carbon-free electricity by 2050. It also orders the establishment of an Office of Sustainability and Clean Energy.

“This is a game-changer for Wisconsin on multiple fronts,” said Clean Wisconsin Vice President of Programs and Government Relations Amber Smith in a press release. “This order by Gov. Evers sets the tone for state action on promoting clean energy and tackling climate change.”

Although not as volatile as in some other parts of the country, Wisconsin’s climate is also changing. The Great Lakes are getting warmer, leading to heavier rains and more flooding. Last year also challenged Milwaukee’s sewerage district, which was forced to conduct five sewage overflows into the Milwaukee River and Lake Michigan over just three months. The Milwaukee Metro Sewerage District (MMSD) is only allowed six overflows per year.

“I wouldn’t call it ‘run of the mill,’ MMSD media contact Bill Graffin told Pontiac Tribune. “We are no doubt seeing an increase in extreme storms from a rainfall standpoint.” The Badger State’s agricultural economy is also taking a hit, along with the health of the lakes.

A 2018 University of Wisconsin-Madison study showed climate change trends in Wisconsin could lead to toxic algae blooms. That same year, Lake Superior experienced an “unprecedented” algae bloom which some attributed to climate change. Blue-green algae is now blooming in several parts of the state;  four beaches in Madison closed in June due to the water quality.

Climate activism is also on the rise statewide. Just days ago, a 16-year-old high school student from Fond Du Lac, Wisconsin, Madeline McDermott, made news when she organized a large demonstration to demand action on climate change in her part of the state. “The way we accomplish things is being disruptive,” she told the Fond du Lac Reporter, “but being non-violent.”

The ambitious teenager is pushing for 100% clean energy transition by 2030, twenty years before Gov. Evers’ target year. McDermott joins a global movement of teenage climate activists, spearheaded by 16-year-old Swedish teen Greta Thunberg, who has taken her climate activism tour to America.

On another climate front, Clean Wisconsin filed a lawsuit against the Trump Administration earlier this week. The group joined nine other environmental groups decrying the Trump Administration’s Affordable Clean Energy rule, which they say nourishes the coal industry. “Curbing climate change is a daunting task,” said Meyer Smith. “It starts the needed conversation about how we will reduce our climate footprint and promote clean energy statewide.”


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Isiah Holmes
Isiah Holmes

Isiah Holmes is a journalist and videographer, and a lifelong resident of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Holmes' video work dates back to his high school days at Wauwatosa East High, when he made a documentary about the local police department. Since then, his writing has been featured in Urban Milwaukee, Isthmus, Milwaukee Stories, Milwaukee Neighborhood News Services, Pontiac Tribune, the Progressive Magazine, Al Jazeera, and other outlets. He was also featured in the 2018 documentary The Chase Key, and was the recipient of the Sierra Club Great Waters Group 2021 Environmental Hero of the Year award. The Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council also awarded Holmes its 2021-2022 Media Openness Award for using the open records laws for investigative journalism. Holmes was also a finalist in the 2021 Milwaukee Press Club Excellence in Journalism Awards alongside the rest of the Wisconsin Examiner's staff. The Silver, or second place, award for Best Online Coverage of News was awarded to Holmes and his colleague Henry Redman for an investigative series into how police responded to the civil unrest and protests in Kenosha during 2020. Holmes was also awarded the Press Club's Silver (second-place) award for Public Service Journalism for articles focusing on police surveillance in Wisconsin.