Wisconsin’s gonna fry, and Ron Johnson feels fine

Our very rich, very dumb senior Senator embraces the end of the world as we know it.
Illustration: Ghosts and ghouls are shown swarming about the Wisconsin Capitol. Illustration by Maggie Denman.
Illustration: Ghosts and ghouls are shown swarming about the Wisconsin Capitol. Illustration by Maggie Denman.

Our very rich, very dumb senior Senator embraces the end of the world as we know it.

Wisconsin politics brings an abundance of bad policies, bad takes, and bad actors. In Capitol Punishments, we bring you the week’s highlights (or low-lights) from the state Legislature and beyond.

May and June are supposed to give Wisconsinites some breathing room from utility bills. Too warm to run the heat, but cool enough to not need much air conditioning—it’s supposed to be a nice cushion. 

So when you get your unseasonably high electricity bill from running your A/C, I hope you think of Ron Johnson. 

Wisconsin’s senior Senator continues to be Wiscosnin’s senior disinformation merchant, particularly when it comes to science. In April, during a Senate budget hearing, Johnson pivoted from saying climate change isn’t real to saying it would be good for Wisconsin

“Global warming will actually be beneficial … Why wouldn’t we take comfort in that? … Y’know, concerned if you’re in the hot region of Africa … but we’re in good shape,” Johnson said.

Yeah, according to our air quality index (AQI), we’re in great shape. For weeks now, wildfires—which are of course exacerbated by climate change—throughout Canada and by Fort McCoy, have kept the AQI dangerously high for people with respiratory conditions or who labor outdoors. So when you see that air quality alert in your weather forecast, think of Ron Johnson.

You know who else I hope is thinking of Ron Johnson? Wisconsin’s farmers. Wisconsin Public Radio reported last week that some areas of southern and northwestern Wisconsin have received three fewer inches of rain than the average this season, and some have received less than one inch total so far. This creates a litany of complications: plants’ roots have to dig deep into the soil to reach water, but that dry soil is compacted and hard as concrete. The lack of rain also means that herbicides won’t activate, so all these wide-open fields could soon be overrun with weeds. 

And it doesn’t look like that’s going to change. Kate Abbott, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in La Crosse, told WPR these conditions are being caused by an “El Niño-like” weather pattern and what’s called a “blocking ridge,” which is an area of high barometric pressure that’s not allowing other weather systems to move in. Such as, weather systems that could bring some moisture to our parched soil. 

Can I say for certain that either of these are caused by climate change? No, I am not a meteorologist. But one of the predicted impacts of climate change is that the Midwest will not only get hotter, it will also have longer periods of dry weather

In 2015, then-Oklahoma Sen. Jame Inhofe (of course, a Republican) brought a snowball on the US Senate floor to argue that global warming wasn’t real. What nitwits like Johnson and Inhofe don’t realize is that there’s no such thing as the earth “just” getting warmer. All of our weather patterns are shaped by the movement of hot and cold air and moisture. As the earth gets hotter, all the systems that we know and have come to rely on will become less stable. There will always be cooler air somewhere on the planet. But how that cooler air will interact with warm air and moisture will be less predictable. That will have big impacts on our ability to grow food and on wildlife’s ability to survive.

Of course Johnson and many other wealthy people don’t think the impacts of climate change will touch them. Kim Kardashian and Kanye West would have lost their home in a wildfire in 2018, except they were rich enough to hire a private firefighting force to protect it. So they wipe the sweat off their brows and hop on their private planes. Elon Musk claims that he builds electric vehicles to combat climate change, but lately he seems more concerned with blasting off rockets (with massive emissions) to colonize other planets than he is with saving this one.

Johnson probably doesn’t even notice his utility bills. If there’s widespread crop failure, he’ll blame Democrats for increased food costs. Besides, he’s probably got a bunker stocked with supplies in Oshkosh, including canned air. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s in line to buy some Florida high ground to turn into a private island when the state becomes an archipelago. 

We need to tax the rich to fund programs to combat climate change, because they’re not going to do it. They don’t think it applies to them. To an extent, they’re right: if you’re concerned about income inequality, you should know that climate change is only going to make it worse.

So for the love of God, can we stop waiting for billionaires to save us? And while we’re at it, we need to stop giving Johnson a microphone.

Who has power and what are they doing with it?

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