As climate change makes its early impact in New Mexico with depleted rivers, increased wildfires and a drier landscape, everyone must pull together to avoid the most dire forecasts while ensuring minority communities and poorer residents aren’t left behind.

That was the central theme echoed by political leaders, scientists, conservationists and community activists Monday at the New Mexico Climate Summit, which delved into how to cut greenhouse gas emissions that trap heat in the atmosphere.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham called for making the state’s 2050 net-zero emission goal a law in the upcoming legislative session — a declaration that pleased climate advocates and alarmed some in the fossil fuel industry.

“If you don’t have that framework in statute, it’s too easy to not work as diligently or as quickly or as effectively — to not have future commitment,” Lujan Grisham said. “This should be indicative of the work we’re going to do to preserve future generations.”

That legislative effort, if carried out, wouldn’t affect the shorter-term goal in the governor’s 2019 executive order to cut carbon emissions by 40 percent by 2030.

In a statement, an environmental group, which pushes to slash fossil fuel emissions, praised what it called the governor’s bold edict.

“By putting net-zero greenhouse emissions by 2050 into law this coming year, New Mexico and the governor will continue to lead the country toward a livable climate and a just transition,” said Camilla Feibelman, executive director of the Sierra Club’s Rio Grande Chapter. “We know New Mexicans want bold, just climate solutions and 100 percent clean energy.”

But industry advocates denounced the idea in a statement, saying it would hurt the state’s economy and residents.

“The proposals put forth by the governor today will do nothing more than increase the green tax on New Mexico’s working families,” said Larry Behrens, director of nonprofit Power the Future’s Western states chapter. “It’s incredible to hear the governor and her eco-supporters celebrate policies that are causing energy prices to skyrocket both in Europe and here at home. Our families deserve ideas that are based in reality, not failed ideology.”

Still, an Occidental Petroleum representative who sat on a conference panel said he becomes frustrated with oil and gas operators making statements on how climate solutions will come at the expense of the industry.

“For example, my industry has no future in a net-zero world,” said Al Collins, vice president of public policy at Houston-based Occidental. “Or that high-paying jobs are going to be lost to low-paying jobs when we transition to a clean economy. I just think that’s an outdated idea.”

Throughout the conference, speakers spoke of the need to make an energy transition that’s equitable for all communities, including Indigenous, Hispanic, rural and others whose members are heavily dependent on oilfield jobs.

“The transition is coming,” said Maite Arce, founder of the Hispanic Access Foundation. “If we don’t do it right, the same people — the usual suspects — will benefit, and the same people, the same communities, will be left behind. We must protect the working people’s jobs, their homes, their livelihoods and walk with them through this change.”

That will require building trust and connecting with community leaders to draw on their wisdom for how to get through the transition, Arce said, adding: “After all, they know what’s best for their communities.”

One of the biggest arguments against pushing too hard or too fast to move the state away from fossil fuels is the massive yearly revenue the industry puts in state coffers. Estimates vary from $1.6 billion to $2.6 billion.

Several speakers at the summit said the state must end such heavy dependence on an industry that emits a large portion of the state’s greenhouse gases.

“We have got to put everything we can as a state government behind creating a robust private sector that is focusing on the green economy,” said state House Speaker Brian Egolf, who helped organize the conference. “We want to not be in a position where 40-plus percent of our state budget has a single industry.”

Two climatologists discussed the effects being seen from warmer, drier weather.

The warming climate is leading to weaker snowpacks, more evaporation and shorter winters — trends that are reducing river flows and reservoirs to record lows, said Dave DuBois, state climatologist at New Mexico State University.

Shortened cold seasons keeps invasive insects on trees and crops longer, increasing the strain on them, DuBois said.

At the moment, some of these trends are tied to short-term drought rather than climate change, but they are a harbinger of what’s to come in the next 40 or 50 years, DuBois said.

Ilissa Ocko, climate scientist with the Environmental Defense Fund, said warmer temperatures cause greater evaporation, leading not only to more water in the atmosphere but torrential rains on the dried-out soil.

Arid soil can’t absorb rain as well, which results in severe flooding, she said.

Methane, a key component of natural gas, has caused a quarter of global warming, Ocko said.

Scientists have determined methane is 28 times more potent than carbon dioxide in warming the atmosphere over a 100-year period.

But methane only lingers for a decade, much less time than carbon dioxide, which can hang around for 300 to 1,000 years. If methane emissions are phased out, that will go a long way in slowing climate change, Ocko said.

However, it is equally important to eliminate the longer-lasting carbon dioxide pollution, she added. The oil and gas industry emit about half the state’s methane and one-third of the carbon dioxide, she said, adding technology should be employed to capture it.

Lujan Grisham and other state officials touted the regulations, policies and laws that were put in place during her tenure to combat climate change, such as the electric vehicle tax credit and the Energy Transition Act, which requires investor-owned utilities to produce 50 percent renewable energy by 2030.

But they all agreed there was more that should be done.

State Senate President Pro Tem Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, said regulatory agencies must be fully funded to carry out the governor’s climate goals, such as the net-zero emissions by 2050.

“We hobble them by not adequately funding them,” Stewart said.

(18) comments

Robert Fields

Darn. Only 30 more years for the fossil fuel industry to fleece the public while pocketing huge profits.

We’re looking at a whole another generation to start careers and retire in the fossil fuel industry. Really?

And it’s all for the low, low price of climate instability and huge risk for the planet. Such a deal.

Mike Johnson

Indeed, most encouraging news, but I would guess at least 40 more years of petroleum being the dominant fuel and raw material supply source for the world. When I visit my alma mater's geoscience departments and talk to students, the majority of them still want a high paying job in the petroleum industry, and they are there in abundance too.

Mike Johnson

And more good news for the patient and wise investors...A surge in energy stocks is challenging climate-conscious money managers who beat the market for years when the sector struggled but are now missing out on Wall Street’s hottest trade.

The S&P 500 energy sector has rebounded 54% this year, outpacing the broad index’s 21% climb and leading the second-best performing group by about 16 percentage points. That would mark the third-largest such gap between the top two sectors since 2000, according to Dow Jones Market Data."

Greg Mello

My wife and I attended most of the first day of this conference at the Roundhouse. It was the worst conference either of us had ever attended. The atmosphere of sycophancy was so thick you could cut it with a knife. None of the difficult questions -- some of which can be seen in these comments -- were addressed. Amazingly, not one question could be posed, or answer given. It was all stage-managed as a kind of substance-free rally for the environmental troops, with vague promises to those representing the constituencies who will be harmed by corporate cartels and Big Green dealmakers. Quite unfortunately, the so-called green crowd -- which is really business-as-usual painted with watered-down, leftover green paint -- does NOT have science on their side. It is, as a commenter here says, all politics. This administration is getting the energy transition all wrong, frankly. Tthe Big Green groups are the same ones that sought failed "cap and trade" policies, wasting a good ten years in which real climate responses could have been charted, debated, and offered to the working families who will not get behind schemes to make Pattern Energy or Avangrid or their megainvestors rich. We wasted a day being there, but the experience did show us the policy dangers, and dangers to democracy, of excluding science and important constituencies in favor of the partisan politics of a legislative majority that does not heed the technical or political complexity of the crisis at hand. The result will be that the transformation sought by Heinrich, MLG, Propst, and others, lacking as it does a strong basis in fact and science, will fail overall while failing poor families most of all, right now.

Mike Johnson

[thumbup] Thank you for exposing the truth about this fiasco and waste of time.

Robert Fields

I generally go for the save the planet approach since that’s the one that seems it should be easiest to convey. People gotta eat.

Next comes the now unstable fossil fuel supply because you’d think people would want to look out for their own interests of supply and price and have the necessities powered during an extended outage.

Yeah, well. There’s a new sheriff in town.

Not just intermittent supply and high prices, but how about riots and widespread unrest too? And this doesn’t even consider food shortages or hopefully not, famine.

Just curious what it takes to get peoples’ attention on global warming. These aren’t tomorrow things unless there’s some giant hack on our energy supply but it seems possible. But for now, this guy points to rising prices for gasoline and natural gas and speculates on possible results and what it means.

The cause is said to be governments scaling back support for fossil fuel drilling. For the survival of the planet we have to do that. But this happening and it is limiting fuel supplies which will make fossil energy less reliable and more expensive. Regardless of the cause, the end result is folks need to ask themselves how to get through this and the solution ain’t get bigger cars, bigger houses, and get more wasteful.

You’re probably locked into your current energy choices for this winter but before next year, might want to start evaluating your options. And we don’t know how it will all play out if there’s even anything to play out.

John Cook

The dinosaurs have had their day. Including in the below comments. Now is the time to put huge government resources into more clean energy; better battery and hydrogen storage capabilities and a crackdown on fossil fuel pollution. No more being held hostage by the Russians on natural gas, OPEC on oil or domestic producers who are limiting their production.

Mike Johnson

Indeed? Soaring words and rhetoric/hot air. Where are your actions? Where are your results? When will you get started? I'll check back in a few years, and of course nothing will have changed, all politics.

Kirk Holmes


mark Coble

Yes, pollution is bad and needs addressing but this article is more propaganda. Why? No mention of how sun controls the weather and climate. No mention of weakening magnetosphere, no mention of shifting poles, no mention of solar forcing or anything other than CO2 which is...plant food. Why no mention of sun? Oh, right, can't tax it! Will gov order climate change lock down? It's coming.

Mike Johnson

In my lectures on global warming, I love to ask science students what the cause of the numerous and frequent ice ages was. Unless I am with a group of advanced university students who have taken geology courses, they always say CO2. WRONG!

Russell Scanlon

I hear the sound of Nero’s fiddle. . .

Barry Rabkin

2050 net-zero framework ???? But 2050 is not NOW ! Beyond that, whether in 2021 or 2025 or 2035 or 2050, people still need a continuous stream of energy to heat their homes in the winter, cool their homes in the summer, and operate their person vehicles and businesses. The Oil & Gas Industries provide that continuous stream of energy and will continue to do that for many, many, many decades to come through 2050 and beyond.

Mike Johnson

[thumbup][thumbup]To quote one expert: "In 2019, the latest complete year of data, 81% of the world’s energy supply came from fossil fuels, according to the International Energy Agency. Even if all nations were to fulfill their current climate promises, the IEA estimates that fossil-fuel use would still make up 73% by 2040."

Mike Johnson

I think this reporter missed the real reasons for this debacle, and things going on here. The left wing eco-socialist politicians here invited all manner of special interests and those they could pander to with soaring, insincere, and useless hot air, to collect campaign donations. All talk, no action, but the left wing special interests felt good...and the left wing politicians raked in the dough.....typical. Scotland's COP26 will be very similar.

Robert Fields

Dang, Mike! All that lack of caring for your fellow travelers on this planet and now we find out you’re a mind reader too?

What number am I thinking of, Mike?

Chris Mechels

What a sham!! As if putting something into "law" makes a difference... MLG herself breaks every law she comes to, and so does Attorney General Balderas. So, who's to enforce the suggested "law"? The answer is; no one. Just more eyewash for the gullible, and printed in the New Mexican as fact. We need to restore the Grand Jury, and let them enforce the law, against our government. But of course that won't happen, because the Grand Jury was neutered by this crooked gang, in the 1990s.

Mike Johnson


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