Secretive Wisconsin Climate Change Forum Features UW Speakers

The climate change forum being held at the state Capitol on December 11th will be a secret, with members of the public and media prohibited from attending, according to state Rep. Jeff Mursau, the Republican organizing the forum. Mursau is the chairman of the Assembly’s Environment and Forestry Committee, and he will be joined by Democratic state Rep. Fred Clark in hosting the event, which features numerous speakers from the University of Wisconsin.

Mursau told Media Trackers late Friday that the public would be banned from the event, as would members of the press. According to the state Representative, “The forum is open only to legislators and legislative staff.”

According to an e-mail sent by an industry executive in late November, some participants in the forum were expecting a possible media presence and thought that some members of the public might show up. “It is likely that some media will attend,” wrote the executive with the Wisconsin Paper Council.

Last Thursday, Mursau was asked by regional talk radio show host Jerry Bader to explain why he was hosting the event. Contradicting himself at points in the interview, Mursau managed to disjointedly explain he simply wants to learn more about the impact climate change could have on Wisconsin.

He has also said he does not foresee legislative policy ideas emerging from the event. But some previous attempts by Wisconsin policymakers to herald climate change concerns have been accompanied by regulatory frameworks and proposals that generated intense debate.

Six of the ten speakers scheduled for the forum are University of Wisconsin academics or professionals. They are slated to speak on topics ranging from water resources to energy production and consumption.

Starting the event is Dan Vimont, a climate scientist at UW Madison who co-chairs the Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts. The WICCI declared in a 2011 report, “Unless we modify planning, design and management of infrastructure, the risk of economic and environmental damage will increase.”

The WICCI report also suggested that flooding and sewage overflows, like the sewage overflows in Milwaukee, are the result of climate change.  “[I]f instances of heavy rainfall increase in frequency and magnitude, as climate models project, we will see an increase in these public health risks resulting from sewer overflows,” the report states.

Paul Meier, a scientist with the UW’s Wisconsin Energy Institute, will be addressing the impact of climate change on energy production. Meier’s work has focused on touting the benefits of green energy and renewable energy as part of the country’s energy portfolio. “Using a multi-player game approach, I am working to establish a national energy modeling network, wherein researchers and decision-makers can strategize for an affordable transition to clean energy,” his UW biography reads.

To explain how climate change will impact agriculture, Mursau and Clark have invited Michelle Miller of the UW Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems to speak. Miller at one time worked for Earth Share, a liberal group that facilitates fundraising efforts for local environmental groups. On their website they explain:

“The warming temperatures caused by GHGs are responsible for rising sea levels (from melting glaciers and ice shelves), melting permafrost, changes in the distribution of plants and animals, and the lengthening of seasons. Scientists are also increasingly confident in linking climate change to the catastrophic storms, droughts and hurricanes we’ve experienced in the last few years.

Campaign finance records show that Miller, who also worked for Environmental Defense, has contributed exclusively to Democratic candidates.

Absent from the list of speakers is University of Wisconsin Milwaukee professor and climate scientist Anastasios Tsonis. Tsonis has been critical of global warming theorists who refuse to consider the impacts of “natural variability” on climate.

According to the Assembly Sargent at Arms, Rep. Fred Clark has reserved the GAR Hall at the state Capitol from 9:00 AM – 3:00 PM on December 11th, presumably for the climate change forum.