The Earth’s climate is changing faster now than at any time in the history of modern civilization. More than half of the 1.0 degree Celsius (1.8°F) increase in the Earth’s average surface temperature has happened in the past three decades, with emissions resulting from human activity as the primary cause. The last few years have also seen record-breaking, climate-related weather extremes, and the last three years have been the warmest years on record for the globe.
These trends are expected to continue. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the average global temperature is expected to continue rising 0.2 degrees Celsius per decade, reaching a 1.5 degree increase between 2030 and 2052.
The impacts of these changes are already being felt in Dane County. Historic flooding in 2018 had a major impact on our communities and resulted in millions of dollars of damage. Climate change is expected to bring more frequent severe storms and extreme temperatures and, in turn, increase damage to infrastructure, threats to our lakes and waterways, challenges to agriculture, and negative health effects for both urban and rural residents of Dane County.
In 2017, President Trump withdrew from the Paris Climate Agreement. In response, Dane County joined 280 cities and counties, 10 states, and hundreds of other organizations, businesses, tribes, and faith groups in declaring We are Still In with a promise to pursue the goal of the Paris Agreement by taking steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Between 2007 and 2015, Dane County had already reduced greenhouse gas emissions resulting from County operations by 26 percent. Recognizing that more needed to be done, Executive Parisi created the Dane County Council on Climate Change.
The Council is made up of local government officials from across the county, business leaders, representatives of the University of Wisconsin, local utilities, as well as equity and environmental advocates. The primary purpose of the Council was to draft a set of recommendations for programs, projects, and policies that will keep Dane County on the path to deep decarbonization and establish Dane County as a national leader on climate mitigation.
The culmination of the work of the Office of Energy & Climate Change, the Dane County Council on Climate Change, and several working groups will be the Dane County Climate Action Plan (CAP).
The CAP will include more than 100 recommendations for programs, policies, and projects made by the Council and working groups, including the results of modeling to show how these recommendations will help Dane County cut its emissions in half by 2030 and achieve the goal of net zero CO2 emissions by mid-century.