Dane County has long been a leader in sustainability, and last week’s announcement of a solar project on the Jobs Center building was just another example.

As Dane County Executive Joe Parisi spoke at the Waunakee Rotary meeting recently, he listed a number of other solar projects, including the 20,000-solar-panel project at the Dane County Regional Airport. The county’s biogas project at the landfill, where compressed natural gas is being generated, and where manure digesters can provide renewable natural gas to fuel vehicles, is yet another way the county has sought to improve the environment. That project is helping to keep our lakes free of algae-inducing phosphorus, encouraging more farmers to use digesters to process manure, and producing clean, renewable fuel. And it’s generating revenue for the county.

More good news came from the state of Wisconsin recently as Gov. Tony Evers announced a goal of 100 percent carbon-free energy generation by 2050. It will require more technological advancements to get there, but those should be within reach. After all, who would have considered a manure digester feasible 20 years ago?

Still, more needs to be done at the federal level. While individual states and local governments should be commended for their efforts to reduce their carbon footprint, unless federal legislation such as the Clean Air Act is in effect, we risk allowing pockets of our nation to become polluted and unhealthy for residents.

We could in the future create areas that are less desirable for residents, and that scenario would drive up the costs to live in places like Wisconsin, where the air and water are clean. It’s easy to imagine a dystopic future, when such states may want to build walls around them to maintain their own livability.

Dane County is doing what it can, not only working toward reducing emissions but planning for the consequences of climate change – more frequent, intense rain events among them. Several projects are underway to dredge rivers, allowing water to flow through the Yahara Lakes system more freely.

Until the rest of the nation, and the world, in fact, begin to address climate change, that’s about all our local officials can do. At least it’s a start.

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