Climate change is a threat to New Mexico’s natural environment and a new study argues that makes it a serious economic threat as well.
Tourism, the creative arts, agriculture, ranching, and the dairy industry all stand to lose millions of dollars, according to Demos, the public policy group that published “New Mexico’s Rising Economic Risks from Climate Change.” The report is authored by Robert Repetto, author of the 2011 book, "America’s Climate Problem: The Way Forward." He is a senior fellow in the United Nations Foundation’s climate and energy program.
The study states the cost of responding to climate change in New Mexico will double by 2040 to $ 3.3 billion annually. New Mexico faces a growing depletion of its water supplies due to lower precipitation levels, increased temperatures, less snowpack and annual runoffs. Almost no sector will remain unscathed.
Tourism, one of the largest industries in the state, will see shorter ski seasons. Fly fishing will suffer due to warmer rivers and lakes and ash from forest fires. And as birds winter in more northern climes, many birdwatchers who travel here from other states will go elsewhere, the study predicts.
Agriculture will likely suffer the biggest impacts, with losses of $73 million annually by 2020 to the agricultural and ranching sectors. Weeds and parasites are more likely to thrive with milder winters and hotter summers. Growing seasons will be longer. But that also means greater water demands. Ironically, because more rain will come via heavy storms, spring floods will become more frequent. That will send more water to reservoirs earlier in the year and decrease amounts available for hydropower and irrigation on.
The study recommends capping greenhouse gas production by energy companies. And it notes that New Mexico has an unmatched opportunity to pursue renewable energy and link it to natural gas development through combined-cycle gas turbine plants. This week the Department of Energy awarded $3.8 million to the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas, and its industry collaborators to develop a gas turbine combustor for a concentrating solar power hybrid gas turbine system.