Wisconsin GOP leader Vos says climate change 'probably' real

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The Republican leader of the Wisconsin Assembly said Wednesday that climate change is "probably" real, but that he's not sure.

There is nearly universal consensus among scientists and the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that global warming is real and man-made.

In addition to questioning whether global warming is happening, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos also denigrated a climate change task force created by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers earlier this month. Vos told WisconsinEye that he believes it was created for political purposes. And he said that if the goal of the group is to "make people on the left feel better about themselves, that's a nonstarter."

Evers asked the task force to develop strategies to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change in Wisconsin, which he called a "grave threat to the health, safety, and economic well-being of people and communities." The task force includes Republican and Democratic members of the Legislature and representatives of a broad cross section of the state's agriculture, energy, business, health, education and environmental interests.

When he created the group, Evers said that science showing that the Earth's climate is increasing more rapidly than ever due primarily to human activity has been ignored for too long and "we can't afford to do it any longer."

But Vos said there was no reason to create the group.

"There's no doubt in my mind that Gov. Evers did this for political reasons," Vos told WisconsinEye. "There's no real task for the task force. Like, what's your ultimate goal? I would say I don't know if climate change is real. I think it probably is. I have no idea why it is occurring nor do most people on the planet."

Evers cited the problems caused by increasing extreme weather events and threats to the state's economy, particularly Wisconsin's multi-billion dollar dairy and agriculture industries, as reasons to form the group. He told the task force to assess the best available research, review actions already being taken to address climate change, work with the higher education and business communities to foster innovative research, and make recommendations by September 2020 for legal changes that would foster a "clean energy economy."

Vos said he could be supportive of proposals from the task force if they include increasing the use of nuclear power and not raising utility rates.

"For anybody who believes that we're going to solve climate change by just building more windmills and putting solar cells everywhere, we still need to have power at night and there's no battery technology that can store enough right now," Vos said.

Evers' spokeswoman, Melissa Baldauff, had no immediate comment.

Assembly Democratic Leader Gordon Hintz, who was interviewed alongside Vos, said there was an urgency to come up with a plan to address how climate change is affecting Wisconsin and to get the public on board.

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