What could you, your neighbors, your village, your nation, do to protect the earth’s ability to sustain a healthy biosphere? Readers’ suggestions, recommendations or pledges are welcome. Send them to Corrales Comment, or better yet, mobilize to implement them.
Here are a few ideas to start.
• Convince Corrales’ state legislators, Brenda McKenna, Jane Powdrell-Culbert and Daymon Ely, to fund municipalities to buy electric police cars and phase out gasoline-powered patrolcars.
• Plant three more low-water use trees on your property if you live east of Loma Larga.
• Persuade the mayor to move ahead with stalled solar electric installations at all municipal facilities, and commission an energy audit so that the Village of Corrales is New Mexico’s first municipality to achieve net-zero energy use. An audit in 2013 demonstrated we were almost there.
• Use the just-passed N.M. Community Solar Act to install a photovoltaic system for Pueblo los Cerros condos.
• Buy and use a bicycle to get around the village for errands, shopping —and life-sustaining physical exercise. Participate in the long-delayed planning for a bike and walking path along upper Meadowlark Lane.
• Personally adopt the City of Albuquerque’s “1-2-3-2-1” landscape watering directive. At a maximum, water once a week in March, twice a week in April and May, and three times a week in the hottest months, June, July and August. Then cut back to twice a week in September and October. In November, it’s back to once a month.
• Adhere to the City of Albuquerque’s “No Burn Night” rules for use of fireplaces to avoid thermal inversions that cause drastic air quality problems in the metro area.
• Restrict the number of building permits for huge, energy-intensive “McMansion”-style new homes here; auction off just a few every year.
• Demand that Village officials set a firm timeline to extend wastewater collection service to all higher-density neighborhoods. Implement other ways to protect Corrales’ drinking water quality.
• Persuade your representatives in Congress to support former Senator Tom Udall’s “Thirty By Thirty Plan to Save Nature” Resolution. The plan would preserve 30 percent of America’s wild lands and open spaces by 2030.
• Eliminate or reduce your use of insecticide and pesticides.
• Establish Village government incentives for residential construction projects which incorporate significant passive solar features.
• If you own a business, or have influence over one, encourage adoption of projects and policies to reduce use of fossil fuels, such as retiring gasoline- or diesel-burning vehicles.
At the international level, the United States has rejoined the Paris Climate Accord, pledging to help hold down the planet’s rising temperatures. Assuming the United Nation’s climate change “conference of the parties” (COP 26) is convened in person this coming November, Corrales Comment anticipates reporting on it directly from Glasgow, Scotland, as it did for the 2015 Paris conference. COP 26 was postponed last year due to the pandemic. (See Corrales Comment Vol. XXXIV No.20, December 5, 2015 “Corrales Confronts Climate Change” and Editor Jeff Radford’s dispatches from the conference found at http://www.corralescomment.com)
On Earth Day 2021, President Joe Biden convened an international conference of leaders from many of the world’s governments to map out a unified strategy ahead of November’s COP 26. As at every COP since 2015, the goal will be to steer governments toward meeting their original pledges to drive down emissions that cause global warming and prod them to take even more ambitious steps. That preceded a three-week United Nations virtual conference starting May 31 “to advance the extensive work that needs to be addressed in preparation for COP 26….”
Biden’s primary climate advisor is the former U.S. EPA chief Gina McCarthy appointed by President Barack Obama. In a speech April 15 at an event called by the U.S. information technology industry, McCarthy explained the current situation this way. “Climate change for too long has been seen as some big and amorphous issue scientists talk about.”
But when it is stated as a bread-and-butter issue, trade-offs are usually couched as jobs or environment. “One of the cornerstones of Biden’s infrastructure plan is a recognition that our ability to address climate change should be borne on sound economic policy, because it can he,” she stressed. “Coming out of the pandemic, you don’t just jump to an ‘Oh, woe is me… climate change is happening.’”
The days of fossil fuel corporations blatantly thwarting efforts to control greenhouse gas emissions may be over, or at least waning. Financial institutions around the world have begun pulling support for new mining and drilling while large investors, such as New York State’s enormous pension fund, have declared they will stop putting money into fossil fuel development. Earlier this month more than 300 businesses, including Google, McDonald’s and Walmart, signed a letter to President Biden urging the United States to increase its targets for curtailing planet-warning emissions.
On April 15, draft legislation was introduced in both chambers of Congress to end government subsidies for fossil fuel projects. The End Polluter Welfare Act’s objective is to close tax loopholes and eliminate federal subsidies for the fossil fuel industry, estimated at more than $150 billion over the next ten years. While federal and state programs and policies will have a major impact, even more is expected from business and individuals.
The Corrales chapter of Citizens Climate Lobby, led by Corrales Elementary School Librarian Josephine Darling, has been working at the state and federal levels to persuade elected officials to implement legislation that encourages businesses and institutions to shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources. (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXXVI No.7 June 10, 2017 “Corraleños Respond to Climate Accord Pull-Out.”)
“We need to continue to quietly persuade our members of Congress that there is a bipartisan solution to climate change that all members of Congress can get behind, regardless of political party,” Darling emphasized. “Citizens Climate Lobby has that solution, and we have been working behind the scenes to build consensus.” She invites others to join the Corrales chapter. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The movement started by Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg’s “School Strike for Climate” continues to gain strength globally. Her Fridays for Future campaign mounted an international demonstration March 19 “to demand immediate, concrete and ambitious action from world leaders in response to the ongoing climate crisis.” Their demands can be found at #NoMoreEmptyPromises.
If the challenges are great, Corraleños and other citizens sufficiently concerned about climate change can begin immediately implementing the following steps as outlined by Jim McKenzie and 350 New Mexico.
• Switch off and unplug appliances when not in use.
• Use energy efficient lighting.
• Buy energy efficient appliances.
• Insulate, install efficient windows and doors and plug leaks.
• Install programmable thermostats.
• Use photovoltaic and solar thermal systems to power your home and heat water.
• Switch to green electricity.
• Walk or ride your bike for short trips and commutes.
• Car share or use public transport.
• Buy an electric vehicle.
• Avoid the airport if possible. Try train, bus or carpool.
• Reduce your meat consumption, since one pound of beef equals 19 pounds of carbon dioxide.
• Install a clothes line and unplug your dryer.
• Install low-flow faucets and shower heads.
• Make your investments fossil fuel free.
• Tell your local government representatives that you want municipal and county facilities powered by solar or wind energy.
Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s Interagency Climate Change Task Force, established in January 2019, reported that New Mexico produced more than 66 million metric tons of greenhouse gases (GHG) in 2018. Of our state’s GHG emissions, an estimated 31 percent is methane, the report said, while nationally it is just 10 percent.
Methane is about 25 times more potent as a GHG than carbon dioxide. More than 60 percent of that methane released in New Mexico comes from oil and gas operations —which yield so much revenue for an otherwise impoverished state that almost no politicians dare to push hard for reduction of those fossil fuels. Oil and gas operations here are projected to inject at least $7.9 billion into State coffers last fiscal year.
Even so, the task force reported, New Mexico’s total GHG emissions declined by 5 percent from 2005 to 2018, an improvement almost entirely due to Public Service Company of New Mexico’s closure of two coal-fired units of the San Juan Generating Station. The remaining units are to be closed in 2023.
“It is not hyperbole to suggest the stakes are higher than perhaps ever before in human history,” the governor wrote for the task force report’s introduction. Still, New Mexico joined a multi-state organization to expand exports of natural gas. The increase in liquified natural gas, specifically for export to Asia, would benefit State coffers and local communities, the governor’s office said upon joining the Western States and Tribal Nations organization.
Her administration asserted that New Mexico “is in the forefront of states taking ambitious climate action,” which includes a commitment for statewide reduction of GHG emissions by at least 45 percent by 2030 compared to 2005 levels. Much of that is supposed to come from implementing the governor’s Executive Order 2013-003 and the N.M. Energy Transition Act.
In its conclusions section, the task force report promised “These policies, which include a methane emission reduction regulatory framework, an update to the state’s building codes, and electricity transmission corridors to transport our renewable electricity resources to market… are already beginning to come to fruition. “This is only the beginning of our action,” the conclusion continued. “Over the next year, we will refine our policies, accelerate their implementation and acquire modeling data to demonstrate the success of our work.” The State’s controversial Energy Transition Act is touted as “one of the most ambitious renewable energy and zero-carbon electricity standards in the United States.”
Among state government’s initiatives is a commitment to substantially increase its fleet of electric vehicles (EV), and to fund installation of EV charging stations. A goal was set that 75 percent of vehicles purchased by the State each year must be powered by alternative energy sources. Transportation is the second largest source of GHG emissions in New Mexico. “The State can spur clean vehicle adoption by incentivizing EV purchases, investing in charging infrastructure, requiring that a percentage of vehicles for sale be zero emission vehicles and regulating vehicle emissions,” the task force report noted.
New Mexico has already joined the Regional Electric Vehicle Plan for the West to create electric highway corridors throughout the intermountain West. Another incentive with high potential is also underway: shifting to electric-powered school buses in school districts statewide. Meanwhile, the steady increase in solar electric installations at New Mexico homes, institutions and businesses continues. In Corrales, more than four megawatts were already being generated by photovoltaic arrays two years ago. (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXXVIII No.4 April 6, 2019 “Solar Farm Expanse Will Soon Generate 2 Megawatts.”) And the state’s largest wind farm has begun generating enough electricity to supply about 294,000 average size homes from 240 turbines near Dora, New Mexico, in Roosevelt County. Other wind farms are expected to connect to the grid in the near future.