Climate change means uncertain future for New Mexico chile farmers

This year’s chile season is in full swing, but it is getting mixed reviews from farmers in southern New Mexico. Maria Martinez sells her family’s produce from Anthony and Brazito on Wednesdays and Saturdays at the Farmers and Crafts Market in Las Cruces. Her booth stands out with red chile ristras strung up around the sides and sacks of chile piled next to them. Fresh green chile fill baskets at her booth and a continuous stream of customers approach her during the market, searching for their chile fix. She said it’s been a struggle this year because of insufficient water. 

“It’s been kind of hard because they don’t give them much water,” Martinez said of the local irrigation district. 

Dino Cervantes, of Cervantes Enterprises Inc. and a board member of the New Mexico Chile Association, grows cayenne peppers and jalapeños in Vado.

‘The silenced’: meet the climate whistleblowers muzzled by Trump

From weakening vehicle emissions to blocking warnings about how coastal parks could flood or the impact on the Arctic, the Trump administration is accused of muzzling climate science. Here six whistleblowers and former government scientists describe being sidelined by the administration – and why they won’t be quiet. Jeff Alson 

Role: A former senior engineer at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s vehicles lab in Ann Arbor, Michigan

What did the work involve? “I was an engineer at the EPA, working for 40 years in a very technical job. In 2009, after the election of Barack Obama, the EPA started working on greenhouse gas standards for vehicles for the first time.

Media can do better: Getting serious about climate change

New Mexico has the same water stress level as the United Arab Emirates, an analysis from the World Resources Institute finds. 

The state could have three months worth of 100-plus degree days by 2080, up from about 20 in the ‘60s and ‘70s, under a higher emissions scenario, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts, putting the elderly and children at greater risk of heat-related deaths and changing our agricultural system. In New Mexico, catastrophic wildfires, intense drought and heat over the last couple of decades have brought climate change into high relief. When it comes to global warming and mitigating its damage, there’s a lot going on, both here in New Mexico and around the world. There’s also high interest. 

Polls consistently show New Mexicans, in line with residents in all Rocky Mountain states, believe climate change is a pressing issue. Most recently, an annual bipartisan poll conducted by Colorado College found that New Mexicans increasingly say climate change is a serious problem. 

Yet, in the news, you’re a lot more likely to hear about President Trump’s latest tweet controversy than you are climate change. 

That’s just not right. 

As a profession, the news industry is not doing enough to ensure the global climate emergency receives the public debate and discussion it deserves.

‘Like a sunburn on your lungs’: how does the climate crisis impact health?

The climate crisis is making people sicker – worsening illnesses ranging from seasonal allergies to heart and lung disease. Children, pregnant people and the elderly are the most at risk from extreme weather and rising heat. But the impact of the climate crisis – for patients, doctors and researchers – is already being felt across every specialty of medicine, with worse feared to come. “There’s research suggesting that our prescription medications may be causing harm because of changing heat patterns,” said Aaron Bernstein, a pediatric hospitalist who is the co-director of the Center for Climate, Health and the Global Environment at Harvard University. “There’s evidence that extreme weather events are affecting critical medical supplies so we can’t do things as we normally would do because IV fluids aren’t available.

‘Americans are waking up’: two thirds say climate crisis must be addressed

Two-thirds of Americans believe climate change is either a crisis or a serious problem, with a majority wanting immediate action to address global heating and its damaging consequences, major new polling has found. Amid a Democratic primary shaped by unprecedented alarm over the climate crisis and an insurgent youth climate movement that is sweeping the world, the polling shows substantial if uneven support for tackling the issue. More than a quarter of Americans questioned in the new CBS News poll consider climate change a “crisis”, with a further 36% defining it as a “serious problem”. Two in 10 respondents said it was a minor problem, with just 16% considering it not worrisome at all. More than half of polled Americans said they wanted the climate crisis to be confronted right away, with smaller groups happy to wait a few more years and just 18% rejecting any need to act.

Oil and gas had little to fear during legislative session

Storage facilities in the Permian Basin. Photo by Elizabeth Miller. Stepping to the microphone at a press conference wrapping up this year’s legislative session, House Speaker Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, hammered the podium to the drum beat for Queen’s “We Will Rock You” before declaring it the “best, most productive” legislative session in state history. He proclaimed major achievements in education funding, criminal justice reform, a path for carbon-free electricity — and a bill that would save 100,000 acre feet of water each year from use in oil fields. “The produced water bill, I think, is going to go down as one of the greatest environmental accomplishments to come out of the state legislature of New Mexico,” Egolf said.

NM lawmakers go big on renewables, handle oil, gas with kid gloves

It was a mixed session for people who care about climate change and its effects. The state secured some large-scale wins, but failed to advance measures that would diversify the electrical grid and support individual households in reducing their own carbon footprint. And while measures to hold oil and gas companies accountable for violations of the Oil and Gas Act passed, there was little appetite among lawmakers for drawing more royalty money from an industry responsible for a billion dollar surplus this year. The flagship win for Democrats was the Energy Transition Act, SB 489, which commits the state to 100 percent carbon-free power by 2050. That bill schedules a payment plan for closing the San Juan Generating Station, a coal-fired power plant that supplies Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM).

Penalties for oil and gas violations revived in Senate Judiciary, pass Senate

Crude oil storage tanks in San Juan County

The Senate passed a House bill last night on a 32:6 vote dealing with wastewater from oil and gas production, after the Judiciary committee amended it to grant the Oil Conservation Division authority to issue fines and fees. Now, if the House agrees with the amendments and the governor signs it, the OCD will, for the first time since 2009, be able to issue fines for violations of New Mexico’s Oil and Gas Act. The Senate amendments pick up an effort made by sponsors of SB 186, which was sent to Senate Finance and has yet to see a hearing. Initially, HB 546, titled the “Fluid Oil and Gas Waste Act,” sought to address questions around managing the estimated 1 billion barrels of water that emerge with oil through production. Companies had cited concerns over jurisdiction, liability and potential to retain proceeds among the reasons just 8 percent of water that comes out of oil and gas activities was being reused, Jennifer Bradfute, an attorney with Marathon Oil, told House Energy, Environment and Natural Resources committee members when that bill was first heard.

Renewable power plan aka ‘Energy Transition Act’ heads to governor

Solar panels at PNM’s Santa Fe Solar Center. It went online in 2015 and produces 9.5 megawatts, enough energy to power 3,850 average homes. New Mexico’s lawmakers have approved the Energy Transition Act, SB 489, committing the state to transitioning to 80 percent renewable power by 2040. The act also helps Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM) with the costs of closing the San Juan Generating Station. It  directs $30 million toward the clean-up of the coal-fired power plant and the mine that supplies it and $40 million toward economic diversification efforts in that corner of the state and support for affected power plant employees and miners.