New Mexico is vulnerable to increasing heat, melting snowpack, droughts, and wildfires – Native communities are especially vulnerable
New Mexico’s climate is already changing. Most of the state has warmed at least one degree Fahrenheit in the last century. New Mexico can expect increasing frequency and intensity of heat waves, reduced snowpack and reduced waterflow in the Colorado, Rio Grande and other rivers, and increasing frequency and intensity of wildfires due to drier conditions.
- Increasing temperatures: The Southwest is already one of the driest and hottest regions in the US. Increasing temperatures will only exacerbate challenges already present such as heat waves, crop failure, drought, and reduced snowpack, posing increasing threats and costs to public health in New Mexico cities especially. A Risky Business report projects the number of days per year of temperatures at or above 95°F will increase by 13 to 28 additional days by mid-century, and an additional 33 to 70 days by the end of the century. That’s one to two months of additional days of extreme heat for babies being born right now in this region.
- Melting Snowpack: Snowpack and streamflow are projected to decline in New Mexico, reducing the reliability of surface water for cities, farmers and ecosystems. Reduced water availability combined with increasing temperatures threaten crops and animal agriculture in New Mexico.
- Wildfires: Climate change is exacerbating the ingredients that contribute to wildfires: heat, drought, and dead trees. These are expected to increase wildfires in New Mexico.
- Pests: Warmer, drier conditions make forests more susceptible to pests because trees are less able to fend off attacks. The bark beetles, for example, have infested 200,000 acres in New Mexico. Also with higher temperatures during winter, some pests are more able to survive year-round, increasing their threat to trees and animals.
- Adaptation: New Mexico has not developed a statewide climate adaptation plan.
- Native Communities: Climate threatens the natural resources upon which tribal communities have depended for generations, threatening their health and well-being. Increasing temperatures are likely to decrease the availability of fish, animals, and wild plants the Navajo and other tribes depend on, as well as creating health problems for those without electricity, including 40 of the Navajo reservation.
New Mexico residents support clean energy and climate regulations
- According to the Yale Map Project on Climate Change Communication 71% of New Mexico residents recognize that global warming is happening. The project finds that 68% of residents support regulating CO2 as a pollutant and 83% support funding research into renewable energy sources.
New Mexico & reservations could lead in wind and solar generation
- Wind power can help New Mexico meet its renewable energy goals while creating economic development. Currently the state ranks 17th in the nation for wind generation, with 1,353 MW of capacity installed. That’s enough to power 334,000 homes. The industry provides 1,000-2,000 jobs in the state. New Mexico’s proximity to important wind energy areas, combined with manufacturing expertise, could make the state a powerhouse for the wind industry.
- New Mexico passed a renewable portfolio standard in 2007, which requires utilities to generate 20% of their 2020 sales from renewable sources. The RPS requires that wind power fill at least 30% of the total requirement.
- New Mexico ranked 14th in installed solar capacity in 2016, with 643 MW installed. The solar industry employs nearly 3,000 people in 102 companies across the value chain.
- Solar, wind, geothermal and biomass are abundant resources on Native American reservations.