New Mexico Climate Change Report: Progress and Setbacks in 2022

Desert, Mesa, New Mexico, Us, Stormy, Landscape, Travel

On March 31st of this year, the Biden Administration announced $420 million for water infrastructure projects. This is intended to help alleviate the effects of the more than two decades of devastating drought that has plagued Western states, including New Mexico. 

Most scientific experts blame this shortage of cloud-borne precipitation on climate change. Unfortunately, climatologists expect conditions to get even more extreme. 

This means more intense and frequent wildfires, massive desertification of previously green and fertile areas, and other kinds of catastrophic changes. Spring is coming earlier, summers are getting hotter, and winters are becoming less predictable.

Human activity has raised the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere by almost 50% since the eighteenth century. Greenhouse gases have also increased the earth’s temperature by one degree since 1972. Although it might not seem like much, even a temperature rise this minuscule can have disastrous long-term consequences. 

Reports from the intergovernmental panel on climate change

In August 2021, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the first of three reports, which was about the current state of climate change. On February 28th of this year, the panel published the second one, which discusses climate change’s impact on human beings and the environmental vulnerabilities that need to be addressed.

The third and final report is scheduled for later this year and will outline ways to minimize the worst effects of climate change. The report unequivocally states that if the planet’s temperature warms by approximately 2.7 degrees in the next two decades, a climate disaster of unprecedented proportions is inevitable. 

Perceived inaction on the part of the governor 

Visionary leaders and environmental groups in New Mexico say one of the most compelling conclusions to be drawn from the reports is how crucial it is to minimize greenhouse gas emissions before they cause catastrophic climate collapse.  

Jeremy Nichols of the Santa Fe-based WildEarth Guardians stated, “This report is the loudest wake-up call yet that the governor and her administration need to lead New Mexico away from dependence on oil and gas. With the costs of the climate crisis mounting, New Mexico can’t afford to remain tethered to the oil and gas industry.”

Nichols believes that Michelle Lujan Grisham, governor of New Mexico, is too cozy with oil and gas industry lobbyists. During her 2018 election campaign, she promised that she would take serious action on climate change. Grisham even pushed for new methane emissions regulations in the gas and oil industry and was firmly in favor of policies that would bring more renewable energy to the state. 

However, there’s still a belief among climate change activists that she isn’t doing enough. This puts pressure on other leaders to step up to the plate. 

One of these leaders is US Representative Melanie Stansbury. 

She believes that climate change is an existential threat to humankind and that if we don’t immediately act, the world could face dire consequences. Stansbury is intensely passionate about energizing politicians, ordinary citizens, and companies to take massive action to combat climate change. 

That’s one of the reasons she was such an ardent supporter of the Build Back Better Act. This bill is intended to beef up investments in renewable energy and increase restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions. This ambitious bill is the most significant investment in climate action undertaken in the US. 

The clean future act 

Governor Grisham announced late last year that she would sponsor a bill to ensure New Mexico does its part to reduce harmful greenhouse gases. 

Camilla Feibelman, director of the Sierra Club’s Rio Grande Chapter, said New Mexico must pass this bill, known as the Clean Future Act. It sets strict limits on emissions through 2030. 

Feibelman thinks that continued dependence on fossil-fuel extraction is not only a threat to humanity’s future but unnecessary. She said, “Many other states make plenty of revenue without any oil and gas drilling. New Mexico can too, and we will be better off for it.” 

The renewables portfolio standard (RPS) 

The Union of Concerned Scientists undertook an analysis that revealed that renewable energy is New Mexico’s most cost-effective way of meeting their long-term energy needs. 

That’s fantastic news, considering that New Mexico has much untapped renewable energy potential. A Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) is a regulatory mandate to boost energy production from renewable sources such as solar, wind, and biomass. This is something many states have implemented in the last decade or so. 

New Mexico took the plunge in 2004, setting up strict milestones for renewable energy use. The latest benchmarks are that 40% of all retail electricity must be from renewable energy sources by 2025, 50% by 2030, and 80% by 2040.

Finding new ways to the keep the land alive - Albuquerque Journal

The environmental impact of climate change in New Mexico

Unrelenting megadroughts 

Approximately 63% of New Mexico suffers from a drought so bad that it’s severely interfering with agricultural production. 

This “megadrought”, or a drought lasting over two decades, has earned a place in the history books as the second-worst one in 1,200 years. 

This prolonged water scarcity upsets the delicate ecological balance by increasing dust storm intensity and raising wildfire risk to dangerous levels. In Ledoux, New Mexico, villagers have used a rugged network of irrigation ditches – acequias – to water their crops for hundreds of years. These channels depend on annual snowmelt and regular rainfall for replenishment. 

However, the unrelenting dry spell has caused most of the water to evaporate. This has elevated tensions in Ledoux to a fever pitch. Farmers now squabble endlessly over the water rights that become increasingly less available with each passing year. 

Destruction of plant life

In New Mexico, climate change transforms verdant rangeland into a bleak and barren desert. Higher temperatures put tremendous stress on plants, rendering them more susceptible to diseases and insects.

Drier conditions created by climate change are causing desertification of previously fertile areas in New Mexico. 

The piñon pine, New Mexico’s state tree, is one of the casualties of climate change. Even though piñons are a beloved ingredient of Southwestern cuisine, they tragically could vanish altogether by 2030. 

It used to be commonplace to see countless cars on the side of the road near piñon groves in New Mexico in September and October every year, all there to harvest the tiny nut from the Pinus edulis tree. However, this isn’t happening nearly as much because of the effects of climate change. 

Scientists have discovered that seed cone production has fallen by more than 40% because of the ravages of global warming. Piñon nuts grow best when the weather is cool and wet. If trees don’t get much rain, or if the weather is too hot, the trees won’t produce any. 

It’s natural for there to be long gaps between seed years. Under normal conditions, those intervals can be up to five years, and climate change is causing these gaps to be even longer. 

Diminishing snowpack

Snowpack is the snow that accumulates on mountaintops during the winter. When temperatures start to get warmer in the spring, it melts, replenishing streams, lakes, and ponds. 

Because of climate change, snowpack is melting far earlier than it should. Dams retain a lot of this water for use later in the year. However, water from melting snowpack upstream from reservoirs isn’t retained, meaning there isn’t a continuous water supply.

To compound the problem, global warming is causing precipitation that would have fallen as snow under normal weather conditions to come down as rain. This also dramatically decreases snowpack.  

Reduced snowpack extent and depth is horrible news for the thousands of individuals in New Mexico who depend on it for drinking water, hydropower, and irrigation. In many western river basins, snowpack is relied on for water storage even more than human-built reservoirs.

Decreasing snowpack in northern New Mexico is shortening the ski season and other kinds of winter tourism and recreation. 

Climate change’s impact on New Mexico’s tribal communities 

The Ogallala aquifer is one of the most crucial groundwater sources in New Mexico, and thousands of members of the Navajo Nation rely on its lifegiving properties. For example, the Rosebud Sioux Tribe derives 70% of its drinking water from the aquifer. 

Unfortunately, the Ogallala is being drained faster than it can be refilled, and tribal members are suffering because of the massive depletion of this vital water source. Climate change is only making the problem worse.

Because the water supply at the Ogallala aquifer is no longer as abundant as it once was, the Navajo Nation is forced to look for alternative solutions. 

The good news is that historically underfunded New Mexico tribal communities are finally getting the money they’ve been demanding for years to increase their access to clean water. Many of them had water rights they couldn’t exercise because they didn’t have the cash to build the necessary infrastructure.

Go carbon neutral with Aspiration Zero 

Aspiration Zero is the card to get if you want to neutralize your carbon footprint while earning up to 1% cashback. Every time you swipe our card to make a purchase, we’ll plant a tree.

Think of how much difference that could make over a year. The solution to climate change starts with you. And at Aspiration Zero, we make it super easy for you to do your part.

Get started today! 

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.