What can – and should – public officials, corporate leaders, farmers, small-business owners, community organizers, and the rest of us do about climate change in Wisconsin?

Hundreds of people from across the state are expected to convene at Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center here on Wednesday, April 16, to address that question.

The Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies’ second annual Earth Day conference will feature more than 40 speakers from government, academia, business, and the non-profit sector on the theme, “Sustaining Wisconsin’s Environment & Economy: Responding to Climate Change.”

“Our goal is to promote greater understanding of how we affect the climate and of how the climate affects us,” says Lewis Gilbert, interim director of the Nelson Institute. Named for Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson, the institute is part of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Jay Gulledge, a senior scientist at the Pew Center on Global Climate Change and manager of its program on science and impacts, will give the keynote address, “Scientific Uncertainty and Climate Change Risks.”

For the remainder of the morning, the conference will examine current actions and future options to cut emissions of “greenhouse gases” that contribute to global warming and to reduce Wisconsin’s reliance on energy sources from outside the state.

Representatives of the governor’s Global Warming Task Force and the state Office of Energy Independence, both created by Gov. Jim Doyle a year ago, will report on their efforts, as will private-sector innovators in industry, agriculture, transportation, electric generation, and energy conservation.

At noon, attention will turn to the potential impacts of climate change and variability on human health, fish and wildlife, water resources, forests, tourism, and other components of Wisconsin’s quality of life, and how the state might adapt to protect public health, natural resources, and the economy. Organizers of the newly launched Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts (WICCI), among others, will discuss their work and plans.

“It’s become apparent during the past decade that more than 100 years of inputs from human activity are already changing the atmosphere,” says Gilbert. “Unfortunately, even if we could halt all production of greenhouse gases today, the momentum of climate change resulting from past inputs would continue for decades. So we need to develop strategies both to adapt to the change already in motion and to prevent it from becoming more extreme.”

The conference is open to anyone, but pre-registration by April 8 is required.  The $25 registration fee covers all conference materials, a continental breakfast, lunch and refreshments.

To pre-register or for more information, see the Earth Day conference Web site at or contact Steve Pomplun, (608) 263-3063,
[email protected].

The Nelson Institute conference is co-sponsored by Alliant Energy, Orion Energy, EcoEnergy, Johnson Controls, American Family Insurance, Madison Gas & Electric, American Transmission Company, RMT, Wisconsin Public Power Inc., and Focus on Energy.

Partners in the event are 1000 Friends of Wisconsin; the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade & Consumer Protection; Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources; and WICCI.