All this has been a rude awakening for many across the region, and their leaders are listening. Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers signed an executive order on Friday mandating the state’s energy usage goes 100 percent carbon-free by 2050, the first 100 percent clean energy mandate in the Midwest. It follows Washington, California, and a number of other coastal states that have set goals in line with the best available climate science.
The executive order makes several changes reach the 2050 target , including developing energy efficiency standards for state facilities. It also creates the Office of Sustainability and Clean Energy, a new office to handle the job finding the right solutions and technologies to execute this proposal. That includes training tomorrow’s workforce to build the clean energy sector, as the order lays out.
“A transition to a clean energy economy will generate thousands of family-supporting jobs in Wisconsin,” Evers said in a statement. “Our state has a responsibility to current and future generations of Wisconsinites to act to prevent continuing damage to our climate and to invest in solutions that help to mitigate the changes that have already occurred.”
While the state is already feeling the effects of climate change, even more changes are to come. By 2055, the state may see its average annual temperature increase by up to 9 degrees Fahrenheit if emissions continue to rise globally, according to the Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts. And then there’s the rain. The state sees storms that drop at least 2 inches of rain—enough to produce localized flooding in parts of Wisconsin—about once every 10 months in the south and once every 17 months in the north. These events are expected to become 25 percent more common by mid-century, again if emissions keep rising.
Donald Trump won Wisconsin in 2016, which may make it seem like an unlikely state to have major climate ambitions. Last year, however, voters elected Evers, a Democratic governor, and he’s been taking climate action. He joined the Climate Alliance in February, a group of states that have agreed to meet the U.S. commitments to the Paris Agreement in the wake of Trump announcing his intent to leave the international agreement.
This move is refreshing coming from the Midwest. Just last month, Ohio passed a clean energy bill that Vox climate writer David Roberts dubbed “the most counterproductive and corrupt piece of state energy legislation.” The bill calls for coal and nuclear bailouts, along with killing any incentives to transition to a cleaner energy economy.
As for this new Wisconsin policy? It’s encouraging, especially because much of the energy consumed in the state comes from coal that travels from Wyoming. Coal is dying, and Wisconsin isn’t planning to get left behind.