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New Report Shows How Climate Change Hurts New Mexico

J. Mijin Cha

Earlier this summer, New Mexico suffered through record-breaking forest fires that consumed over 170,000 acres. It marked the second consecutive year of record-breaking fires. As a new report released by Demos today shows, increased forest fire risk and intensity is just one of the many impacts that New Mexico will face from climate change. “New Mexico’s Rising Economic Risks from Climate Change,” is the latest report in a series that show the economic and environmental harms that climate change will wreak on states. Reports for Arizona, Florida, Nevada and Virginia can be found here.

Some of the damaging economic and environmental impacts New Mexico will face include:

Water Supply and Economic Impacts

  • Most regions of New Mexico already face severe water constraints. Climate change impacts will further deplete the state’s water supply and extreme droughts will become more frequent.
  • The cost of climate change is rising rapidly, doubling between 2020 and 2040 to $3.3 billion per year.
  • The minimum economic impact of climate change on the agriculture and ranching sectors is a loss of $73 million annually by 2020.
  • Hot, dry conditions will continue to produce devastating forest fires.

Environmental and Health Impacts

  • Annual temperatures have risen throughout the state nearly two degrees F since 1976. Average temperatures are projected to increase five to seven degrees F over the course of this century.
  • Three of the five highest causes of terminal illness and death in New Mexico will be exacerbated by climate change: heart disease, stroke and chronic lower respiratory disease.
  • The impacts of climate change on public health will result in thriving illnesses and disease, plummeting physical well-being, and soaring health care costs.

The situation in New Mexico is exacerbated by its sitting governor who has persistently worked to overturn the previous administration’s climate policies. Governor Martinez first attempted to block the state’s commitment to reduce greenhouse gases by three percent by refusing to publish the rule, a move that was ultimately struck down by the state’s Supreme Court. However, Martinez managed to prevail by replacing literally every member on the New Mexico Environmental Improvement Board, which then went on to repeal both the state-specific cap on emissions and the state’s cap and trade program.

Despite Martinez’s climate denying tendencies, the state has strong history of forward thinking climate policies. For instance, it has a goal of 20 percent of its electricity coming from renewables by 2020 and strong potential for further renewable development. A strong climate advocacy community, including our partners, the New Mexico Environmental Law Center and Amigos Bravos, are on the frontlines working to protect the state’s natural resources against the ravages of climate change. While we suffer through inaction on the federal level, now is the time for states to take up the fight against climate change.