Your Environment at Risk: Climate concerns lead to local action

Which one of these best describes your position on climate change?

You are alarmed and certain climate change is human caused and an urgent threat.

You are concerned that climate change is real and a serious threat, but it’s not as high a concern for you as other issues facing America.

Maybe you are cautious and not sure if it is real and a threat.

Are you disengaged and know little about climate change and rarely hear about it?

You are doubtful — you don’t believe in global warming or it being a threat.

Those who are dismissive don’t believe in climate change being caused by humans, it’s not a threat, and is probably just a hoax.

This is how the Yale Program on Climate Communication describes “Global Warming’s Six Americas.” In their most recent 2020 survey, 26% of those surveyed were alarmed and 29% were concerned. This makes climate change a significant issue for over half of Americans. For the record, I’m near the front of the line in the alarmed group.

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The University of Wisconsin-Madison’s La Follette School of Public Affairs recently polled 5000 Wisconsin residents about state and national policy issues. Their results “show that climate change ranks as the top issue for Wisconsin residents, with 59% of all respondents ranking it as quite a problem or an extremely big problem” with “widespread support across the political spectrum for solutions to climate change.”

While it’s important to note that the level of concern about climate change is on the rise in the US and Wisconsin, unfortunately, 2021 did not bring strong, unified, national or international action to reduce human-caused carbon emissions and their dire effects on our climate. The outlook for 2022 has not improved.

I, like many others, hoped that somehow world leaders would surprise us at last November’s UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland and come together to treat climate change as the growing global threat that it is. But, true to form, the two weeks of negotiating resulted in little real substantive action. This is especially hard to accept for those countries that contribute least to the planet’s cumulative carbon emissions yet are feeling the blunt of extreme weather events exacerbated by climate change.

Nationally, Congress is stymied by partisan gridlock and a rancorous lack of concern for action on climate change. Progress for President Biden’s Build Back Better legislation has been stopped dead in its tracks by several Senators from his own party who now have much more power than they deserve and appear to enjoy the attention it has garnered them.

Will the $550 billion in climate change funding within Build Back Better be removed and brought forth to Congress as a separate bill? That remains to be seen. One can only hope that it finds the support it needs to be enacted. As stated in the recent House Committee on the Budget report, “The climate crisis is an existential threat that must be handled immediately if we are to avoid the most catastrophic consequences. Postponing action will only make life harder for millions of families and endanger more lives and livelihoods as extreme weather events intensify.”

In many cases efforts to effectively address climate change have become the responsibility of counties, cities and towns. Local communities across the country have been dealing with climate-related prolonged droughts, unprecedented flooding, invasive species, wildfires and more. These communities cannot wait for national and international leaders to act.

With that in mind, the City of La Crosse is currently undertaking the development of a Climate Action Plan. The goal is to have it completed by the end of this year and it will be “the City’s roadmap for achieving our GHG (GreenHouse Gas) emission reduction and climate resilience goals.” (

There are currently a series of community engagement meetings being held. A community input survey is available online and people can share their stories— via writing, video, and art— about how they are experiencing climate change. More activities to engage the public are planned during the year. A Climate Action Plan Team of City staff, members of the public and consultants are currently meeting to begin development of the plan

For it to be effective and inclusive, our entire community needs to be involved. This project should be a catalyst for open discussions about how all parts of La Crosse, including individuals, families, neighborhoods, businesses, corporations and government can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and work to adapt to the effects of climate change that we are already experiencing and those yet to come.

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