I am writing today to announce the closure of the New Mexico Independent. After three and a half years of operation in New Mexico, the board of the American Independent News Network, has decided to shift publication of its news…
Coming to grips with global warming in New Mexico
Carbon free energy technology will catch up with global warming issues, but not before the world suffers through a tumultuous transition and probably centuries of atmospheric cleansing of greenhouse gases.
There’s enough blame to go around. It would take many pages to list all the ideological quacks, corporate solipsists, status quo moneybags, invisible hand freeloaders, and political cowards and sly skulkers in this country who have helped bring us to this precipice.
And, of course, no matter what the deniers said, they could not stop the hundreds of visionary companies and entrepreneurs, heavily capitalized and not, who saw opportunity in the changes ahead, and the dozens of nations who understood the future and began preparing for it.
What the global warming deniers have done is to create a political dead space, a vacuum in which global warming gases have soared and technology, legislation and capital have lagged sorely behind despite far thinking companies and governments.
When Secretary of Energy and Nobel Laureate Steven Chu told Rolling Stone a few days ago that the world will not level out at 450 parts of CO2 per million (ppm), considered the tipping point to centuries of drastic climate change, he was the first senior American official, in my memory, to be so blunt about the world’s chances in the years ahead.
Earth’s atmosphere is currently at 385 ppm. Dr. Chu told Rolling Stone “We’re not going to level out at 450 ppm… I hope we hit 550 ppm. Who knows?” Many scientists around the world worry that continued stalling on the reduction of carbon emissions would result in a “leveling out” at 800 ppm or a 1000 ppm, numbers that guarantee a world climate plagued by unbearable conditions.
“I don’t think the American public has gripped in its gut what could happen,” Chu said. “We’re looking at a scenario where there’s no more agriculture in California. I don’t actually see how they can keep their cities going.”
Drought, floods, ice caps melting, rising shorelines, increasing extreme weather, this is what the global warming deniers have helped to bring about.
To survive transitions like the ones ahead, serious thinking and planning has to be accomplished fast. But fast isn’t in the cards either. Globally, we can’t get together on what to do. Nationally, the deniers and brain draggers gum up the works whenever they can. Some states are trying to plan ahead, but many are so cash strapped from decades of anti-tax politics that they’re beholden to big coal and big oil and gas, the very carbon polluters the states need to reel in.
Probably, the most important kind of planning to be done is region by region, city by city. And most of it will have to come through volunteerism. There’s no question that there’s vast fortunes to be made by responding to global warming, by cutting green house gases, and by developing alternative sources of energy. But that’s not going to do much good for those of us who will suffer from global warming without profiting from it.
And there’s a whole lot of us in that boat.
New Mexico is already feeling the pinch from global warming. Science writer John Fleck reported in the Journal last week that a federal climate change study has observed that “rising temperatures and dwindling snowpacks” can already be seen in New Mexico. Our springtime precipitation could drop “from 10 percent to 40 percent by the end of the century,” Fleck wrote.
This shouldn’t be news to most of us, but it is. Two years ago in March 2007, a United Nations report concluded that global warming was already triggering weather related hardships and disasters around the world, especially in poorer nations and regions.
Our federal government, of course, paid no attention. Neither did Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Las Cruces, Rio Rancho, and state government either. And the chorus of deniers babbled on.
So what does Albuquerque and the rest of northern New Mexico do if a perfect storm scenario unfolds here – if the drought in the Colorado River catchment continues as it has for almost a decade; if water wars break out among rich states like Colorado, California, Arizona and Nevada, and New Mexico loses its San Juan/Chama water, either through legal wars over the Colorado River Compact or through drought; if we learn that our aquifer is not only shrinking faster than we thought, and hardly recharging at all, but is more polluted that we imagined and requires very expensive reverse osmosis cleanup procedures over many decades, just to keep drinking water flowing?
This is not an outlandish scenario. We know our aquifer is shrinking. We know it’s polluted in many places, but we don’t know how much. And the facts tell us without equivocation that a drought is upon us, and that the Colorado, the mother river of the West is getting smaller and smaller.
The question remains, how does the state of New Mexico and the major cities of the state cope with such a situation?
We know for sure that you can’t cope with any problem by burying your head, by denial, or by political procrastination. Less water means not only less growth, but diminished prosperity all around.
Is it possible to build a positive local economy in the midst of long term drought and an uncharted transition from one complicated fuel system to a completely different one?
I should think cities and states would have to marshal all the talent and imagination they could just to give them a decent chance to do more than painfully muddle through the big climate change already affecting our world.
So why have we done virtually no thinking ahead? Are the consequences just too dire to contemplate? What happens if we don’t.