Wisconsin Changes Websites’ Wording on Climate

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By Stephen Joyce

Wisconsin state websites now reflect revised explanations for climate change.

Websites of at least two state agencies, the Department of Natural Resources and the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin, have altered or dropped text blaming human activity as a chief culprit for climate change. The moves predate redactions occurring following the inauguration of President Donald Trump on the White House and Interior Department websites.

“What you’re seeing at the federal level is, in some ways, stuff that we’ve lived with here for quite a while,” Bill Davis, director of Sierra Club’s Wisconsin chapter, told Bloomberg BNA.

Some Wisconsin commentators have pointed their fingers at Gov. Scott Walker (R) as the person driving the editorial revisions on Wisconsin’s web pages.

“I don’t know that I have ever heard him say officially that climate change isn’t happening, but he certainly doesn’t think we should do anything about it,” Davis said.

‘Going Through a Change’

Pages devoted to the Great Lakes on the state Department of Natural Resources website for the majority of 2016 stated: “Earth’s climate is changing. Human activities that increase heat-trapping ("green house") gases are the main cause.”

That language was replaced, on Dec. 28 or earlier, with the words, “As it has done throughout the centuries, the earth is going through a change. The reasons for this change at this particular time in the earth’s long history are being debated and researched by academic entities.”

"[W]hatever the causes and effects, the DNR’s responsibility is to manage our state’s natural resources through whatever event presents itself,” the current web page says.

Eliminated in its entirety was a description of increased swings in summer and winter temperatures that have caused increased evaporation, lower Great Lakes water levels and warmer waters that result in reduced habitat for cold water species and a loss of wetland areas.

And a page titled “Global Warming” on the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin, the state’s utility regulator, that discussed former Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle’s Global Warming Task Force was removed entirely in 2016.

A spokeswoman for the Public Service Commission and a spokesman for the state DNR did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

To contact the reporter on this story: Stephen Joyce in Chicago at sjoyce@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at lpearl@bna.com

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