Wisconsin Advocates, Politicians React To Withdrawal From Paris Climate Agreement

Critics Of President Call For Grassroots Action

President Donald Trump
Andrew Harnik/AP Photo

Some local officials and environmental groups are urging Wisconsin residents to go ahead with their own efforts to reduce climate change after President Donald Trump announced Thursday that the U.S. will be withdrawing from the Paris Climate Agreement.

Madison Mayor Paul Soglin and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett are two of more than 100 local leaders across the U.S. pledging to uphold the commitments to the global temperature goals enshrined in the Paris Agreement.

George Martin of 350 Milwaukee criticizes President Donald Trump’s action on the Paris Climate Accord, during a Friday news conference. Chuck Quirmbach/WPR

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At a news conference Friday, Milwaukee Environmental Sustainability Director Erick Shambarger issued a friendly challenge.

“For those of you in the community who are concerned about this issue, one thing you can do is invest in energy efficiency and renewable energy on your own homes, and city programs like Milwaukee Shines and the ME 2 program can help make that affordable for you,” he said.

Environmental groups such as the Sierra Club and 350.org are also recommending grassroots action.

Wisconsin Republican and House Speaker Paul Ryan supports the president’s move, saying the U.S. “government must encourage production of American energy.”

In a statement issued Friday, Republican Sen. Ron Johnson said “the benefit of the Paris agreement was suspect from the start.”

“Instead of spending hundreds of billions, if not trillions, of dollars to barely move the needle on global temperatures in a hypothetical distant future, the world’s limited resources would be better spent providing safe drinking water, preventing malaria, and taking other measures to alleviate human suffering in the here and now,” the statement reads.

The MacIver Institute, a conservative Wisconsin think-tank, is also supporting Trump’s decision. Brett Healy, president of the institute, said Trump’s decision will save taxpayers money.

“Part of the Paris Climate Agreement would have required developed nations like the United States to pay $100 billion a year to developing nations for what some have called climate reparations,” he said. “U.S. taxpayers are relieved.”

Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin criticized the president’s decision on Twitter Thursday.

Some Wisconsin farm organizations say the decision to withdraw from the agreement is short-sighted.

“Since the very beginning of this administration, climate change has either been put on the back burner or completely removed from many of the federal government’s websites and it feels like it’s not getting the attention that it needs,” said Nick Levendofsky, government relations associate for the Wisconsin Farmers Union.

Levendofsky said Wisconsin farmers are already seeing the impact of climate change on their industry.

“The weather variability that is taking place and has taken place for some time is very concerning for many folks that are involved in agriculture,” Levendofsky said.

Levendofsky said withdrawing from the agreement could also have a negative impact on investments in biofuels, a potential market for farmers.