An upcoming forum with the RCC could create new opportunities for area residents to get involved with Dane County’s recent efforts to address the effects of climate change.

Erika Kluetmeier, a sustainability specialist for the City of Fitchburg, told the Star the forum’s goal is to highlight a different environmental issue each year “serendipitously” aligned with the county’s recent formation of a new Office of Energy and Climate Change, as well as a new county council dedicated to addressing the topic. Dane County Executive Joe Parisi will attend the forum, planned for 7-8:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 5, at the Fitchburg Public Library, to discuss these changes, as well as how the county is working with both public and private stakeholders to promote renewable energy sources and other sustainability initiatives.

“Dane County passed new funding for climate-related initiatives (in the 2017 budget), and part of that work is going to be to collaborate with local communities,” Kluetmeier said. “We thought it’d be a great opportunity to reach out to the county and bring them to Fitchburg and let us know what their vision is for climate action coming up this year.”

According to a news release for the forum, Parisi said the creation of the new office represented the county’s “boldest action yet” toward addressing present and future concerns created by climate change. Current initiatives aimed at taking advantage of green energy sources include adapting county vehicles to run on renewable compressed natural gas (CNG), investing more than $2 million in its solar power program and reducing emissions at the Dane County landfill by capturing carbon dioxide and converting it into dry ice, the release said.

Beyond the initiatives the county is already pursuing, Kluetmeier said the goal of the forum is to engage people at the local level who are “really interested in contributing to a solution” but struggling to find an entry point in “a really big issue.”

“It’s overwhelming, so we do want to break it down and help people see that any small changes they can make contribute to a difference,” she added. “We hope that we can start a dialogue right now and potentially provide the county with some ideas to take back, as well.”

In addition to a presentation by Parisi, David Liebl of the Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts at the University of Wisconsin-Madison will discuss climate adaptation strategies for municipalities, and “what climate conditions are like now in Wisconsin, how they’ve changed over the last half century (as well as) how climate is projected to change over (time until) 2050 or so,” Kluetmeier said. Fitchburg alder and RCC member Tony Hartmann will also lead a “community round table” and question-and-answer session toward the end of the forum.

“There’s an appetite out there for action and making a change, and I think that often happens on the local level,” Kluetmeier said. “We’re in the position to bring people together to sit down and find solutions to some vexing problems.”

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