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MEQUON — The State Journal recently reported that the Department of Natural Resources has been intensely criticized for removing climate change wording from the department’s website.

I feel the department did the right thing because the information was out of date and in some cases of questionable accuracy.

Some of the removed wording concerned water levels on the Great Lakes. The wording included the contention that warmer summer temperatures, and decreased winter ice cover, would contribute to lower water levels and “could have severe economic consequences.” The statement further noted “human activities that increase heat-trapping (greenhouse gases) are the main cause.”

These statements were placed on the DNR’s website when Great Lake water levels were falling and there was great concern about future water levels. Some published material at the time referenced predictions of the high-tech climate computer models, with most models calling for an overall drop in lake levels — some as big as 3 to 5 feet. This prediction was widely repeated at the time.

So what has happened in the last 10 years? Lakes Michigan and Huron have risen by more than 4 feet between 2013 and early 2016 to a level more than a foot above the long-term average. Why? According to published reports, the increase was due to a combination of factors — more rainfall and runoff, and weather conditions that have slowed evaporation. This is exactly the opposite of what was stated on the DNR website.

Of course, it’s possible the high-tech climate computer models may still turn out to be correct. But for this to happen, the lakes would have to fall by 7 to 9 feet from current levels, since the prediction was made based on lake levels in 2007. The lakes would have to go down 3 to 5 feet as predicted, plus the additional 4 feet the lakes have risen since then.

The current higher lake levels would seem to indicate that the high-tech climate computer models are not very good at predicting precipitation, runoff and evaporation for periods of 5 to 10 years in the future. It would also raise questions about the ability of the models, or anyone else, to predict lake levels over relatively short periods of time. This begs the question, why should the DNR continue to include information on its website that, if not outright incorrect, is certainly questionable in its accuracy?

Another item removed from the website included information from former Gov. Jim Doyle’s Global Warming Task Force. In the 2009-10 legislative session, the recommendations of the task force were synthesized into a massive piece of legislation known as the Global Warming Bill, that if passed would have resulted in large increases in energy prices for Wisconsin residents, while having no beneficial effects on our climate. Even the Democrat-run Legislature at the time couldn’t muster the votes to pass it, and the task force has long since disbanded.

So again, why include this information on the website?

The State Journal article also repeated a variation of the unproven contention that “some 97 percent of working climate scientists agree that rapid changes are being caused by pollution from sources like power plants and automobiles.”

I support valid and rigorous research into climate change because there is still a lot we do not understand about the causes of past climate changes. It’s also important we protect and preserve our natural resources.

Unfortunately, we live in an era in which any researcher who dares to even suggest there may be other causes to climate change besides man’s burning of fossil fuels is ridiculed and attacked.

Science does not advance by shutting down debate or by insisting a state agency include material on its website that is incomplete, outdated and unverifiable.

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Ott, R-Mequon, represents Assembly District 23. He was a meteorologist for a Milwaukee television station and is a member of the American Meteorological Society. He has a master's degree in climatology and meteorology from UW-Milwaukee and a law degree from Marquette: Rep.OttJ@legis.wisconsin.gov.

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