The is no question that a general environmental warming will have significant impact on the Northwoods, as it will everywhere. This is not the forum to debate our climatic future, nor the extent to which that future is shaped by the actions of humans; rather, it is assumed that we are entering into a period of warming, possibly if not probably a significant one.
Since recreation is key to the Northwoods economy, climate change could have significant economic as well as ecological impact. Warmer winters could easily make the snowmobile season too short to be economically viable, or could eliminate it altogether. Warmer summers might make vacationing in the Northwoods less pleasant, but warming throughout the entire region should leave the Northwoods cooler than most of the United States. And the lakes would remain an incredible asset regardless of warming.
Brian Fagan, in his book The Great Warming using the warm period of approximately 800 to 1300 A.D., generally referred to by climatologists as "the great warming", as a basis for looking at climate impacts on civilizations. His conclusion is that they are often significant. He also points out that for much of the world, the great warming really meant the great drought. While it brought some salutary effects to Europe (think of the period of the construction of the great cathedrals and the emergence from the dark ages), for much of the world the effect of warming was significant drought. Nothing from that period really enlightens the possible effect of warming on the Northwoods.
My own experiences at Star Lake certainly confirm a warming period. I can remember as a boy sitting at the lodge and seeing frost on the grass in late August. In the 1940s and into the 1950s all of the lodge cabins had wood stoves, and a wood pile was available near the cabin. And we used those stoves, especially in the evenings. Now seldom do I light my fireplace before Labor Day. These are simply anecdotal notes, but there is general agreement that the climate is quite a bit warmer than fifty years ago.
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WISCONSIN INITIATIVE ON CLIMATE CHANGE IMPACTS
WICCI was established in the fall of 2007 as a collaboration between the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR). Prior to WICCI's formation, both entities had independently begun to examine the issue of climate change impacts. The Nelson Institute effort began in response to questions from state legislators who wanted to understand how climate change could affect their constituents. The WDNR effort was in response to agency staff concerns about how climate change would impact the state's natural resources for which the agency had stewardship and management responsibilities. A joint meeting of 40 UW-Madison and agency scientists in early summer 2007 became the springboard for joining forces and launching a statewide effort. Following that meeting, a small, ad-hoc group of scientists from both entities developed the structure of WICCI--an organization that quickly grew to include representatives from other state and federal agencies, several UW System schools, tribal organizations, businesses and non-profit groups.