Door County, Wisconsin

Climate change—and the extreme weather associated with it—is changing the way U.S. emergency response organizations operate, from how they spend their money to where they pre-position resources, a panel of military, emergency and climate science experts said Monday.

“We pay a lot of money to have our military prepared to do something we really don’t want them to have to do: go to war,” said Joseph Nimmich, deputy administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. “Well, we also need a FEMA and national infrastructure to deal with those catastrophic events we hope never happen… but are inevitable.”

By using climate forecasts created by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), FEMA has begun pre-positioning resources before a disaster strikes. FEMA is also now requiring state governments to incorporate climate change into their disaster mitigation strategies or risk losing out on billions of dollars of federal funds. The agency also helped develop new flood risk policy that mandates all federally funded projects—including FEMA ones—located in a floodplain be built higher and stronger than previously required.

Nimmich spoke alongside Richard Spinrad, the chief scientist for National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and Major General Robert Livingston of the South Carolina National Guard at an event hosted by the Pew Charitable Trusts in Washington, D.C.

They were scheduled to talk last week about how climate change has complicated preparedness for an increase in extreme weather, but it had to be postponed because of: extreme weather. Winter storm Jonas dumped nearly 3.5 feet of snow on parts of the Mid-Atlantic region.

Natural disasters such as flooding, hurricanes, drought and snowstorms have become more frequent or more intense due to climate change in recent decades, the experts said. In the 1980s, the U.S. averaged 29 disaster declarations per year. That average jumped to 74 per year In the 1990s and 127 per year in the 2000s. Nimmich, Spinrad and Livingston said shifting demographics—more people moving toward the coast and waterways directly in harm’s way of most extreme weather—has also played a role in the cost and severity of recent natural disasters.

Extreme weather today “is literally biblical in nature,” said Spinrad. And because greenhouse gas emissions linger in the atmosphere for long periods of time, “we will have many decades to centuries of these continued [weather] patterns. It is a new normal, if you will.

“In terms of preparedness and response, intelligence is the currency of the realm. Climate projections are a piece of the puzzle as valuable as any communications intelligence, or first-person intelligence. Without them, we won’t have the full picture.”

The South Carolina National Guard has been activated 21 times since 2005 to respond with extreme weather, including last year’s historic flooding, Livingston said. A storm dumped 24 inches of rain in two days in some parts of the state after an already wet fall season.

“What I’m afraid of is given the extremes of weather we are seeing, we will see [storms like that] more often, and see it at a higher percentage,” said Livingston. “We timed mobilizations of people [in last year’s flooding] to ensure they could stay home as long as possible. That intelligence piece is very, very key.”

The biggest hurdle, the experts said, is getting people to listen to their warnings. This includes convincing local governments, businesses and homeowners to make buildings and infrastructure more resilient—and to evacuate when asked.

In Republican-run states like South Carolina, the challenge is particularly difficult because climate change is treated as a political issue up for debate instead of a reality that requires action.

“When we build back, we must build back knowing what is coming, the future climate scenario,” said Nimmich. “But in cases where we have repetitive losses, we have to ask, ‘how do I make you change?” Then you are getting into the culture of a person, how they live their lives, and that is very difficult.”


 Roger.Kuhns copyTuesday, February 2nd @ 7pm

Bjorklunden, 7590 Boynton Lane, Baileys Harbor, WI

Roger Kuhns, Ph.D., geologist and environmental scientist, will give a talk titled “Protecting Our Planet through Sustainability: Solutions for Climate Change” at the Climate Change Coalition of Door County’s February program, to be held at 7 pm Tuesday, Feb. 2, at Bjorklunden,  (please note change from our usual first Wednesday schedule).

Kuhns has worked around the world on community sustainability projects, using the triple bottom line approach which focuses on the environment, the economy and the community. He argues that true sustainability depends on advances in all three spheres. In his talk, he will discuss progress to date and additional measures needed to address climate change while supporting economic and community development.

Kuhns has worked in mineral resources and geology, hydrology, environmental remediation, community enrichment and conservation. He lived and worked in Africa for eight years, where he helped write environmental protection and mineral resources legislation for several nations. He heads SustainAudit LLC, advising clients in applying sustainable practices to land use planning and built environments. He is also an author and a musician.

The Climate Change Coalition of Door County (CCCDC) seeks to transcend partisanship and to voice the care we all have for the natural world. CCCDC fosters knowledge and action to address climate change’s challenges and protect the Earth for future generations.

Sara Windjue, energy education specialist at the Wisconsin Center for Environmental Education, UW-Stevens Point, will offer an interactive discussion on environmental education  at the Climate Change Coalition of Door County’s free December program. The program will begin at 7 pm Wednesday, December 2, at 10341 Water St., Ephraim (the Unitarian-Universalist Fellowship). She will feature successful environmental education projects in Door County schools and area educators are especially welcome to attend.


Windjue has worked with the Wisconsin K-12 Energy Education Program (KEEP) at Stevens Point since 2005. She supports technology and engineering educators in energy education, develops KEEP’s Building Science program, helps schools adopt renewable energy systems, works with teachers to integrate energy education into STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and technical education offerings, and collaborates with Cool Choices to motivate sustainable behaviors through the Green and Healthy Schools Wisconsin initiative. Windjue earned a BA in environmental science and biology from Adrian College and an MS in environmental studies from the College of Charleston. 


The Climate Change Coalition of Door County (CCCDC) seeks to transcend partisanship and to voice the care we all have for the natural world. CCCDC fosters knowledge and action to address climate change’s challenges and protect the Earth for future generations.


For more information, contact Roy Thilly, 920-839-2503.

Climate Change Policy and Public Health

Open Online Course beginning Nov. 9

Join the University of Wisconsin-Madison for a free, four-week learning experience, “Climate Change Policy and Public Health,” beginning Nov. 9. This Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) will explore the human impact on climate change and, ultimately, public health. It will bring in experts from around the globe to discuss three primary issues: renewable energy, agriculture and food, and urban design and active transport. All are welcome to participate regardless of prior experience.

In a time when climate change is having and will continue to have a dramatic impact on global public health, from natural disasters and the increased spread of infectious disease to predicted crop losses and heat waves, “Climate Change Policy and Public Health” will elucidate the many real benefits to climate change mitigation. Protecting the environment by reducing greenhouse gases, for example, can simultaneously improve human health.

Jonathan Patz, MD, MPH, will teach the course. Patz is professor & director of the Global Health Institute at UW-Madison. He co-chaired the health expert panel of the US National Assessment on Climate Change and was a convening lead author for the United Nations/World Bank Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. For over 15 years, Patz has been a lead author for the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – the organization that shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize.

Widely published, Patz is founding president of the International Association for Ecology and Health. He has briefed both houses of Congress and served on several scientific committees of the National Academy of Sciences.

Patz will be the keynote speaker at the Climate Change Coalition of Door County’s annual forum May 7, 2016, in Sturgeon Bay.

MOOCs are free. For more information and to register:

The Climate Change Coalition of Door County will present a FREE, the Emmy Award-winning documentary about the world’s vanishing glaciers, 7 pm Wednesday, November 4, at Crossroads at Big Creek, 2041 Michigan St., Sturgeon Bay.

This film premiered in April 2013 on the National Geographic Channel and won the 2014 News and Documentary Emmy Award for outstanding nature programming. It has screened in more than 170 countries, on all seven continents, at 70 universities, 75 film festivals, the White House, the United Nations, and England’s House of Lords.

Chasing Ice features acclaimed environmental photographer James Balog, who in 2005 headed to the Arctic on a tricky assignment for National Geographic: to capture images to help tell the story of the Earth’s changing climate. Even with a scientific upbringing, Balog had been skeptical about climate change, but that first trip north opened his eyes to the biggest story in human history.

Within months of that first trip to Iceland, the photographer conceived the boldest expedition of his life — the Extreme Ice Survey. With a band of young adventurers in tow, Balog began deploying revolutionary time-lapse cameras across the brutal Arctic to capture a multi-year record of the world’s changing glaciers.

Battling untested technology in subzero conditions, Balog captured hauntingly beautiful videos that show ancient mountains of ice in motion as they disappear at a breathtaking rate. In Chasing Ice, Balog shows undeniable evidence of our changing planet.

Bailey’s Harbor scientist Bruce Smith, atmospheric education resource agent for the American Meteorological Society and a meteorology instructor for the UW Colleges, will moderate the event. He is a past president of the Wisconsin Society of Science Teachers and a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point (BS) and UW-Oshkosh (MS).

The Climate Change Coalition of Door County (CCCDC) seeks to transcend partisanship and to voice the care we all have for the natural world. CCCDC fosters knowledge and action to address climate change’s challenges and protect the Earth for future generations. Contact Dick and Mary Smythe, 920-854-3330, for more information.

Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2015 @ 7:00 pm

Unitarian Universalist Fellowship

10341 Water Street, Ephraim

Kimberlee Wright, executive director of Midwest Environmental Advocates, is the speaker. The program is free and open to the public. Wright will discuss the growing gap between increasingly urgent climate-related environmental problems and lagging public policies. Concentrated animal feeding operations’ manure lagoons are not currently designed for more severe weather, for instance; the frac sand industry has already experienced massive storm-caused breaches from its wash water holding ponds, including one that swept a house away. These and other examples illustrate the need to update policies as severe weather events pose ever greater threats.

Midwest Environmental Advocates is a nonprofit environmental law center working for healthy water, air, land and government for this generation and the next. Kimberlee Wright received a law degree and a bachelor of science in rural sociology from the University of Wisconsin- Madison. She was director of conservation programs for The Nature Conservancy and, before joining MEA, managed the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship program for land trusts working in partnership with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to protect critical habitat and natural areas. The Climate Change Coalition of Door County seeks to transcend partisanship and to voice the care we all have for the natural world. It fosters knowledge and action to address climate change’s challenges and protect the Earth for future generations. •

Arctic.ICE.Melt copy


January 21, 2015

Emily J. Gertz is TakePart’s associate editor for environment and wildlife.

In the Arctic Ocean, it used to go like this: Sea ice expanded to the surrounding coastlines in the winter and melted back a bit in the summer. (Thus we often hear scientists discussing the region’s annual maximums and minimums of ice.) Multiyear ice forming to the west, northeast of Alaska and east of Russia, replaced older ice that spread farther to the east.

But as this new animation from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows, since 1987 first-year ice (in darkest blue) has become common, while older, multiyear ice (paler blue and gray to white) has decreased sharply. From the mid-2000s on, older ice has almost vanished from the western side of the Arctic Ocean, making its final stand along the Canadian Arctic Archipelago.

The reason, of course, is climate change. The Arctic is warming at a faster rate than the rest of the world, creating profound changes in the environment. Overall, Arctic sea ice has decreased by around 14 percent since the 1970s, hitting a record low in September 2012.

Historically most of the Arctic ice cap was made of multiyear ice fringed by thinner first-year ice. The ice thickened as it endured from year to year, creating a strong platform for both animals, such as polar bears, and native hunters to use for resting and finding prey. The older ice protected the coastlines from erosion. Thicker ice also likely reflected more of the sun’s heat back into space, helping to keep temperatures relatively cool in the northern hemisphere.

Now rising temperatures in the western Arctic Ocean are dampening the formation of long-term sea ice. At the same time, the ocean’s loop current continues to transport sea ice into the North Atlantic east of Greenland.

“The best scientists in the world are all telling us that our activities are changing the climate,” President Obama said in his State of the Union speech Tuesday night. “I will not let this Congress endanger the health of our children by turning back the clock on our efforts.”

But it may well be too little, too late to reverse the profound changes already transforming the Arctic.

Read the rest of this entry »


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