In July 2020, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed onto a letter of support for a natural gas export facility being proposed in Baja California, Mexico. The letter, which was addressed to Mexico’s Energy Secretary Nahle Garcia, touted the facility as a potential “major North American west coast energy export hub” of natural gas to Asian Markets.
“Energy demand is soaring in Asia, led by China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and India due to manufacturing and economic growth,” the letter reads. “All of these countries are using natural gas as a way to decrease their greenhouse gas emissions.”
The letter was signed by two other governors and the chairman of the Ute tribe in Colorado, on behalf of the Western States and Tribal Nations Natural Gas Initiative (WSTN). New Mexico joined the group in late 2019, with little media attention, when the state’s Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department (EMNRD) signed a Memorandum of Understanding with WSTN. A few months after sending the letter, the facility was approved by Mexico’s regulators and Baja California joined WTSN.
For 18-year-old Artemisio Romero y Carver, a single piece of legislation changed his outlook on participating in democracy.
Romero y Carver, a steering committee member of Youth United for Climate Crisis Action (YUCCA), said that before 2019, he was not engaged with the politics of a government that he felt didn’t represent him or address his concerns.
“Then I read the Green New Deal. For the first time I saw a document, a piece of legislation, something that was part of the U.S. government that didn’t seem antithetical to my own life, that seemed like a genuine representation of my interests, in policy,” he said.
Romero y Carver was not alone. The Green New Deal, introduced by U.S. Rep. for New York Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, a Democrat from New York, and Democratic U.S. Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts, galvanized a sector of the electorate, even if it didn’t get very far in Congress. The legislation, a set of goals which outlined an aggressive transition to renewables that included support for fossil fuel-dependent communities and the electrification of the U.S. transportation sector, was quickly written off by many moderate Democrats and the entire Republican Party at the national level as being unrealistic.
But for Romero y Carver, and other young voters who are deeply concerned about climate change, the plan was an example of exactly the type of policies that are needed to address the climate crisis head on.
“In general, I find that people my age recognize climate change and recognize the immediate need for bold action. But we also don’t feel that that is ever possible when it comes to voting.
Water experts painted a grim picture of New Mexico’s water future during a panel discussion focused on water policy and management. The panel was hosted by Retake Democracy, an advocacy group based in Santa Fe.
Dave Gutzler, a professor at UNM’s Earth and Planetary Sciences department, emphasized that climate change is here, and is already impacting the state’s precipitation patterns.
“Anyone who’s lived here for a while knows that variability is endemic to New Mexico,” Gutzler said. “But the climate is now changing in ways that go beyond natural variability.”
Gutzler said climate change will have three major impacts to water resources in the state.
“One of them is that the temperature is going up. It’s already going up rapidly,” he said, pointing to data that shows average temperatures in the state have already risen 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit since the 1970s.
“That is causing rapid decline in snowpack, rapid increase in evaporation rates, [and] a decrease in groundwater recharge,” he said. “Just the temperature change itself will have an effect on a lot of resources.”
Gutzler said the climate will also become more “energetic” and variable.
“That means the rainfall will tend to be delivered in more intense doses, and the dry spells will also be more intense,” he said.
And thirdly, he said, the weather will permanently move north.
“We expect the winter storm track to shift northward and take the precipitation— rain and snow—with it,” he said.
SANTA FE — Up in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, the Medio Fire is burning over four square miles of forest land. Its smoke has been combining with that from wildfires across the West and spilling down the mountains into Santa Fe and nearby communities. When Carrie Wood found out that elders in the Nambé, Tesuque and Pojoaque pueblos had been contending with that smoke for days, she decided to step in and help. Wood and other organizers of the Three Sisters Collective first tried looking for air purifiers in stores, but everywhere they looked from Española to Santa Fe to Albuquerque had low stock.
They bought what they could and took donations, but wound up making purifiers themselves. Three Sisters members set up shop in Wood’s patio on Monday and, using box fans, 20-inch Filtrete air filters and duct tape, they made over 30 filters to bring to the elders and others with respiratory issues exacerbated by the smoke.
“We’re only doing what Indigenous women have been doing forever — helping the community,” Christina M. Castro, a Three Sisters member of the Taos and Jemez pueblos, said.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham delivered remarks from a solar array in northern New Mexico, which were aired during the virtual Demcoratic National Convention on Wednesday night. Lujan Grisham spoke from the Kit Carson Co-Op’s solar array at Northern New Mexico College in El Rito—though the caption said it was in Albuquerque—about climate change and other environmental issues. And she said there was a clear choice between the two candidates this November. “We know time is running out to save our planet. We have the chance this November to end two existential crises: The Trump presidency and the environmental annihilation he represents,” Lujan Grisham said.
Albuquerque residents coping with the COVID-19 pandemic have flocked to the Rio Grande this spring and summer in droves, said John Fleck, director of the Water Resources Program at the University of New Mexico. “What we’re seeing in Albuquerque is stunning. People are in the river in ways that we’ve never seen before,” Fleck told NM Political Report. “People are out wading in the river, splashing around, playing, setting up family picnics on the emerging sand banks.”
That fun may soon come to an abrupt end. For the first time in decades, Albuquerque is facing a dry Rio Grande.
The scientists who study how diseases emerge in a changing environment knew this moment was coming. Climate change is making outbreaks of disease more common and more dangerous.
Over the past few decades, the number of emerging infectious diseases that spread to people — especially coronaviruses and other respiratory illnesses believed to have come from bats and birds — has skyrocketed. A new emerging disease surfaces five times a year. One study estimates that more than 3,200 strains of coronaviruses already exist among bats, awaiting an opportunity to jump to people.
Thousands of students walked out of school and adults left work across New Mexico as part of massive international climate protests. In Albuquerque a large crowd took part in large a rally downtown on Friday with hundreds, likely over 1,000, people. The rally included local artists, politicians and students speaking about the impact of climate change and the need to immediately address it. Most of the speakers were local youth. Alyssa Ruiz, the founder of the Sandia High School Climate Club, spoke to the crowd and called on zero emissions by 2050.
ByLisa Song, ProPublica, and Paula Moura for ProPublica |
ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for The Big Story newsletter to receive stories like this one in your inbox. Next month, California regulators will decide whether to support a plan for tropical forest carbon offsets, a controversial measure that could allow companies like Chevron, which is headquartered there, to write off some of their greenhouse gas emissions by paying people in countries like Brazil to preserve trees. The Amazon rainforest has long been viewed as a natural testing ground for this proposed Tropical Forest Standard, which, if approved, would likely expand to countries throughout the world. Now that record fires are engulfing the Amazon, started by humans seeking to log, mine and farm on the land, supporters are using the international emergency to double down on their case for offsets.
As communities worldwide experience the impacts of rising global temperatures, and scientists forecast future scenarios with more and more certainty, many policies in the United States—related to everything from building codes and economic opportunities to social welfare and water conservation—aren’t up to the coming challenges. Now, a group of American scientists and policymakers is trying to bridge the disconnect between science and policy—and help states, cities, tribes and small communities plan for future conditions and also cut their greenhouse gas emissions. “My experience is that decision-makers are very challenged by both the magnitude of climate issues and the complexity,” said Kathy Jacobs, director of the Center for Climate Adaptation Science and Solutions at the University of Arizona. “One of the things we’re trying to accomplish with this new network is more readily connecting people with information that is useful to them.”
The network can help people integrate science and community values into decision-making and understand how to manage climate threats, like wildfires and floods, while navigating legal realities or “preexisting burdens such as histories of restrictive zone, siting of industrial facilities and inadequate public health infrastructure.” Or, help local officials think about how to take advantage of new economic opportunities, such as renewable energy technologies. This effort builds on the scientific work looking at the impacts of human-caused climate change on the environment, economy and infrastructure.