MADISON, Wis. — Second on the list of priorities on the new White House Website is the climate. 

“President Biden will take swift action to tackle the climate emergency,” the website reads. 'The Biden Administration will ensure we meet the demands of science, while empowering American workers and businesses to lead a clean energy revolution.”

Biden talked a lot about climate on the campaign trail, and as president he's already taken action to mitigate climate change. Among a set of executive orders he signed on his first day, was one putting the United States back into the Paris Climate Accord.

“That was one very specific step that Biden thought would be important to take to symbolize to the world community that we're back in the climate change game in terms of negotiations with the rest of the world,” said Stephen Vavrus, a climate scientist with the University of Wisconsin - Madison.

Vavrus said the step was largely symbolic, but it could be substantive depending on the type of commitment the U.S. Makes.

“It's done more or less voluntarily, so each country can decide for itself how much and in what way they'll cut carbon emissions,” Vavrus said.

Biden has spelled out similar goals to other countries, states and companies when it comes to carbon emissions. His campaign set a goal of net-zero emissions by 2050.

Vavrus said the difference between outgoing President Donald Trump and Biden could not more stark when it comes to climate policies. He said that's only in part because of Trump's position.

“It's also because Biden is taking climate change more seriously than any other president by far,” Vavrus said. “That's a reflection of the times, climate change is becoming more and more acute and the impacts are becoming more severe.”

2020 tied the record for hottest year on record globally. It also resulted in a record amount of billion dollar natural disasters in the U.S. — 22 — according to NOAA.

Vavrus co-authored a report by the Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts (WICCI) that was submitted to Governor Tony Evers' Task Force on Climate Change. The report detailed impacts Wisconsin is seeing from climate change for the Task Force to consider as it worked on policy recommendations.

Vavrus said that Biden's climate strategy and Evers' are complementary.

“On paper they look very similar,” Vavrus said. “There's a strong emphasis on reducing energy consumption, becoming more energy efficient, upgrading infrastructure to withstand climate change impacts.”

Lt. Governor Mandela Barnes chaired the Task Force on Climate Change — which recently released its recommendations — and he applauded Biden's climate policies. 

“As chair of the Governor’s Task Force on Climate Change, I am excited to partner with the new administration on advancing state-level policies to address the climate crisis and its disproportionate impacts on communities of color, low-income communities, and rural communities,” Barnes wrote on Twitter. 

Vavrus said racial justice and environmental justice are connected, which is something both the Evers administration and Biden administration appear to be on the same page about.

“Recognition that a lot of environmental problems hit low income and people of color more so than others,” Vavrus said.

When it comes to agriculture Vavrus said it remains to be seen what Biden will do. Though he did talk about the nation's food and agriculture systems on the campaign trail, suggesting policies like paying farmers for carbon sequestration.

“I think carbon sequestration could be one benefit,” Vavrus said. “Other ideas could be paying farmers to grow cover crops which can reduce runoff from heavy rainfalls that are increasing with climate change.”

Many in Wisconsin would like to see the Biden administration offer support for local food systems over large agriculture businesses.

Tory Miller, a chef and owner of several Madison restaurants like Graze and L'Etoile, puts an emphasis on local food from smaller farm operations in his restaurants. He said it's partially seeking the best food, it also is to support local economies, but buying local food is also a climate conscious act. Miller said it's partially to cut down on emissions from transporting commodes around the country, but it's more than that. 

“It's also the commercialization,” Miller said. “The way that the economy works as far as how much small family farms contribute versus huge industrial farms, and obviously huge industrial farms contribute more.”

For a lot of reasons, Miller said the change in administration at the White House is a relief for him. He's looking forward to seeing how the Biden administration will tackle climate change and hopes it will be with an emphasis on environmentally conscious farming practices.

“You can't talk about the global climate and not talk about farming and not talk about how agriculture contributes to that,” Miller said. “Food and how people feed themselves and where food comes from and how it's raised, it's very important to the entire life of the planet.”

Vavrus said some environmental steps are already helping farmers. He points to farms leasing land for wind turbines as another source of income. He said an emphasis of Biden's plan has been with an eye on economic benefits.

“Investing heavily in job creation in terms of say electric vehicles, or infrastructure, or upgrading building and homes to be more energy efficient,” Vavrus said.

Though Vavrus recognized that many people in democratic circles think Biden's climate actions don't go far enough, oftentimes falling short of measures in the proposed 'Green New Deal.'

Biden's eye on the climate excites some people in environmental education, like Delaney Gobster, a UW-Grad Student studying environmental science and food systems.

“Push forward to a more climate resilient future and especially working with others around the globe to do so,” Gobster said.

Vavrus said the Biden administration's plan can't all be carried out on his own. While many of the actions can be done with executive orders, he'll need congress to sign on to many others — where Democrats hold narrow majorities in both chambers. Similarly Evers would need the legislature to sign on to many of his climate proposals — where republicans hold sizable majorities in both chambers.

Vavrus said whatever investments are made to combat climate change are likely to mitigate a more expensive price tags of impacts from a changing environment down the road.

“I'm hopeful that we'll actually see some substantive action now on climate change and coinciding with the renewed emphasis on environmental justice,” Vavrus said.