Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts: A Bottom-Up Approach to Developing Climate Change Adaptation Strategies

Rachel M. Gregg
Posted on: 8/23/2013 - Updated on: 3/12/2020

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Rachel Gregg

Project Summary

The Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts (WICCI) was created to support the efforts of multiple stakeholders charged with identifying vulnerabilities to climate change and developing adaptation strategies. WICCI released an impacts and adaptation strategies assessment in 2011 as a first step toward developing a statewide climate change adaptation strategy.


Climate change in Wisconsin is expected to cause increasing air temperatures, altered precipitation patterns, and increasing extreme weather events and storms. By mid-century, average annual temperatures statewide are expected to be 6-7°F higher with more precipitation in winter, spring, and fall, and more frequent storms in spring and fall (WICCI 2011). These impacts will have secondary effects, including decreased ice cover, shifting plant hardiness zones, and increasing water temperatures, among others. Climate change may have both positive and negative effects; for example, the agricultural sector may benefit from a longer growing season with warmer temperatures in spring and fall, but higher temperatures in the summer could reduce crop yields of corn and soybeans (WICCI 2011).

WICCI was created in 2007 by a group of stakeholders from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) and the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-Madison) concerned about climate change effects on the state’s people and the natural environment. Climate scientists from UW-Madison were planning on downscaling data for the state based on the models made available by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), but realized that they needed a better understanding of how their products could best serve those who manage the state’s natural resources, the built environment, and health-related issues. Scientists from WDNR and UW-Madison gathered in the summer of 2007 to discuss potential means for collaboration, and further meetings with other interested parties (e.g., businesses, non-profit entities) resulted in the structure that became WICCI.


WICCI is supported by a Science Council, an Operations and Outreach Unit, an Advisory Committee, and Working Groups. The Science Council, composed of representatives from UW, WDNR, and other entities, governs WICCI; the Council is responsible for identifying scientific issues of concern, potential funding sources, and endorsing the Working Groups’ findings. An Operations and Outreach Unit based out of UW-Madison provides support to the Council and conducts outreach for WICCI, while an Advisory Committee composed of representatives from different governmental and non-governmental organizations provides resources and knowledge to support WICCI’s mission. The Working Groups are charged with providing the expertise needed to assess impacts on specific sectors or geographies and to develop adaptation recommendations; the groups are topic-based (Climate, Adaptation), place-based (Green Bay, Milwaukee), and sector-based (Agriculture, Central Sands Hydrology, Coastal Communities, Coldwater Fish and Fisheries, Forestry, Human Health, Plants and Natural Communities, Soil Conservation, Stormwater, Water Resources, Wildlife). Each group is led by two co-chairs and has its own set of goals and objectives.

WICCI released a full assessment of both climate change impacts and adaptation strategies in 2011 (WICCI 2011). Individual assessments were provided by the 15 working groups set to inform this report; these individual reports are available on the WICCI website.

WICCI received a grant from the Ira and Ineva Reilly Baldwin Wisconsin Idea Endowment, which supported the project kickoff and report production.

Outcomes and Conclusions

Looking to the future, WICCI is working to establish more Working Groups that are place-based, such as the Driftless Area in southwestern Wisconsin and the Northwoods in northern Wisconsin, and other issues, including Economics and Community Adaptation Planning. WICCI continues to conduct outreach to as many groups as possible, including K-12 educators, all 600 of the University of Wisconsin-Extension agents, and specific interest groups. In March 2012, WICCI conducted three workshops with about 120 DNR managers to present the findings of the working group reports, and to encourage participants to incorporate climate change into strategic planning.

Although WICCI is widely touted as a model structure for other states and groups to emulate, its major burden has been funding. While the scientists have been successful in garnering funding for research, funding for organizational support has proved more challenging.


Gregg, R. M. (2012). Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts: A Bottom-Up Approach to Developing Climate Change Adaptation Strategies [Case study on a project of the Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts]. Product of EcoAdapt's State of Adaptation Program. Retrieved from CAKE: www.cakex.org/case-studies/wisconsin-initiative-climate-change-impacts-bottom-approach-developing-climate-change-a (Last updated October 2012)

Project Contacts

Affiliated Organizations

Global climate models indicate that climate change will have significant impacts on mid-latitude regions such as the Upper Midwest, but little is known about specific effects on Wisconsin's environment, economy, and human health, or how to address potential threats or opportunities. Effective responses will require the best available science and meaningful participation of public and private stakeholders.

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