In a report that it posted online last week, the state Division of Emergency Management devoted extensive attention to climate change and how a warming planet could spur natural disasters such as floods, drought and forest fires.
The report contrasts with the Department of Natural Resources and the state Public Service Commission, which scrubbed mentions of climate change and human-generated greenhouse gases from their websites.
As recently as December, DNR officials removed language from a web page devoted to the Great Lakes that had earlier acknowledged the role humans play in global warming. Officials inserted new wording saying climate change is a matter of scientific debate.
The PSC, which regulates electric utilities, eliminated its web page on climate change at some point before May 1, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel found recently. The scrubbed information included a link to former Gov. Jim Doyle's task force report on global warming. The Democratic governor's report in 2008 recommended that Wisconsin reduce the use of fossil fuels and rely more on renewable sources of power. The measures were never enacted.
In a new five-year disaster preparedness plan, the Division of Emergency Management cites research such as from the Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts. It shows global warming is likely to produce more extreme weather. Examples: more days of 90-degree-plus temperatures and more intense rain events.
Bursts of rainfall, the report said, could lead to natural calamities such as flooding, collapse of dams, sinkholes and lake bluff failures.
While other agencies have removed references to the role of human activities in global warming, officials at the Division of Emergency Management included such a statement.
"Although it is widely accepted by the scientific community that the observed changes in global temperatures are the result of human actions, there is considerable uncertainty about the impacts these changes will ultimately have," the agency wrote.
The document also acknowledges "some debate about the cause of climate change," but added that statewide temperatures have increased 1.1 degrees in the past 50 years and that more extreme weather events are likely.
The new planning document was approved in December by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said Lori Getter, spokeswoman for the state Division of Emergency Management.
Wisconsin was one of the first states to complete a new plan. As part of the process, FEMA required states to consider potential climate effects, she said.
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FEMA did not require states to mention human causes of climate change.
However, Getter said emergency management decided to add such language as background.
"We will not be taking it out," Getter said.
The state's plan was signed by several state officials, including DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp and PSC Chairwoman Ellen Nowak.
The majority of scientists who study climate change agree that burning fossil fuels has increased greenhouses gases in the atmosphere and raised global temperatures.
Climate change has not been a priority in the administration of Republican Gov Scott Walker, who asked Attorney General Brad Schimel to join a federal lawsuit with other states who oppose former President Barack Obama's plan to regulate carbon emissions on economic grounds.
On Friday, President Donald Trump's administration removed information on climate change from the White House website.
"President Trump has been very clear about his belief that climate change is a hoax," said Rob Moore, a water policy analyst for the Natural Resources Defense Council who tracks disaster planning in states.
"But he hasn't said anything about what is going to happen with natural disaster preparedness."
Moore said acknowledging the climate issue was refreshing after other state departments moved in the opposite direction.
Wisconsin's planning "is very important," he said. "It sets a precedent for other states to follow and it sets a high bar for FEMA."
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