The temperature is rising on the global warming debate.
It's hotly debated-feverishly hot. And the mercury's rising fast.
Global warming isn't a new phenomenon, but 2006 was the year it became a household word. Certainly, the surprising popularity of Al Gore's
An Inconvenient Truth
played a role.
As did the continued ramifications from Hurricane Katrina and the growing understanding that more extreme weather patterns could lead to more urban disasters [Cover
story, Aug. 23: "
But closer to home, last winter's lack of snow [Cover story, March 8: "
"] combined with last summer's heavy rains and flooding made the need for action clear to residents and leaders alike. Along those lines, New Mexico has embarked on what state
Environment Secretary Ron Curry describes as "a multipronged effort on climate change." He continues: "We have to be a leader in this area so we can get the rest of the country going along with what we're proposing and enacting."
Those efforts included New Mexico's inclusion in the Chicago Climate Exchange, and 2006 marked the first year the state was required to either reduce state government greenhouse gas emissions by 4 percent or buy emission credits (the state is expected to pay $40,000).
Reports issued this year show climate change in New Mexico will negatively impact the state's water supply and infrastructure as the result of warmer temperatures and reduced snowpack. Flash floods and impacts on culverts, drainage systems and other infrastructure also are noted as a concern. The Office of the State Engineer
recently released a second report on the impact of climate change on the state's
Finally, the state's Climate Change Advisory Group (
) this month also released a final report outlining 69 policy recommendations. These recommendations run the gamut from purchasing green power to improving building codes to increasing consumer education.
"We wanted to lead by example and feel that it's important to show that state governments can be accountable," Jim Norton, director of the state Environment Department Environmental Protection Division, says. "The Bush administration has not shown any leadership in addressing climate change, which is one of the biggest problems facing the country and the world."
New Mexico was one of a dozen states to sue the federal Environmental Protection Agency over its decision to not regulate, under the Clean Air Act, carbon dioxide that contributes to global warming. The US Supreme Court heard the case at the end of November.
"The EPA's current standing under the Clean Air Act is a complete reversal from a previously stated EPA standing under the Clinton administration," Environment New Mexico environmental associate Lauren Ketcham says. "This is strictly a political decision on their part not to address this issue."
The Supreme Court isn't likely to reach a decision until next summer. Before then, however, New Mexico is expected to continue pursuing its own plans for addressing climate change. The next legislative session, which begins in January, is expected to include proposals for $23 million in green buildings, renewable fuel technologies and other plans to decrease greenhouse gas emissions.
"I hope that [the Supreme Court] will rule in favor of controlling these emissions," Curry says. "If they don't, it becomes that much more important that the states are taking action."