A changing climate will have both positive and negative impacts on Wisconsin. Too much or too little precipitation, too much heat, or too many freeze-thaw cycles may become more common in the weather patterns of Wisconsin. Certain regions of the state, ecosystems or economic activities will be more vulnerable to these types of changes, while others will be more resilient. Assessing the possible winners and losers is a complex and potentially controversial process.
The complexity rests in the fact that the best available science can only give us a range of probabilities for future temperature and precipitation patterns. Scientists then must figure out what this means for social, economic and natural resources. Then comes controversy, and not only because climate change has become a political issue. Preparing for climate change could mean spending limited resources today for uncertain outcomes in the future. However, if we don’t commit these resources today, the consequences to our children and grandchildren could be significant.
Consequently, the issue of climate change and its potential impacts needs to be resolved in both the scientific and political arenas. Scientists need to be able to provide reliable estimates or probabilities of what climate change will mean across Wisconsin, and decision makers need to respond to this information by making sound strategic choices.