By Meredith Hughes
Hello, Standard Time, bye-bye grasshoppers, which have been leaping about distracting my terrier on walkies…. Anybody have a celebrant of the recent “dark time of the year” show up at the door dressed as a dying Earth? Really? No? These kids today….
Do visit the websites of your favorite museums, galleries, organizations to check opening times/new regulations. Published the first issue of the month, What’s On? invites suggestions one week before the publication date. firstname.lastname@example.org
Did You Know?
Editor/publisher Jeff Radford is in Glasgow for the UN Climate Change Conference which runs to November 12. His reports will be posted online at corralescomment.com. His dispatches from the 2015 conference in Paris are referenced in this issue.
While multiple websites exist for following COP-26, to view “live” coverage, consider diving into YouTube. One source is the UK’s Channel 4 News: https://www.youtube.com/c/Channel4News/featured
And, of course, BBC News: https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=bbc+news+COP26
The conference website itself is here: https://ukcop26.org/
Watercolor artist Sandy St.George died August 30 at age 80. Born in Arkansas, she spent her teenage years on the East Coast where she began a life that family members describe as that of a hippie, poet traveler and folksinger. She first visited New Mexico during an extended roadtrip in a Volkswagen bus.
Sandra Robinson St.George earned a bachelor’s degree in New Hampshire and later a masters and doctorate at the University of New Mexico.
In her later years, she returned to her passion for art to become a skilled watercolorist.
She is survived by her husband, Arthur, son Aaron and step-daughter Amitai, as well as four grandchildren.
Currently a patient care coordinator for an Albuquerque fertility clinic, Melanie Romero has been hired as Village Clerk, replacing Aaron Gjullin. She had filed an application to work for the Village back in September. Gjullin resigned effective October 15. In recommending that the Village Council confirm Romero’s selection at the October 26 meeting, Mayor Jo Anne Roake said the applicant had the skills needed despite having no previous municipal government experience.
In addition to coordinating patient care for Caperton Fertility Institute since February 2020, Romero has served as the business’s computer software troubleshooter. She earned a bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism at N.M. State University, after which she worked at the Carlsbad Current-Argus newspaper as proofreader and advertising sale representative for three years. From January 1999 to September 2019, she was co-owner of a Montessori pre-school in Los Alamos.
It has happened rarely, but at the Village Council’s October 26 session, two former councillors spoke out against a pending policy, urging they buck advice from the Village Attorney. The issue: tightening restrictions on growing marijuana in residential neighborhoods. The two ex-councillors, George Wright and Fred Hashimoto, urged the mayor and council to pass a law that would protect residents from common complaints lodged by people who live near cannabis-growing facilities, particularly odors and invasive night-time light.
Hashimoto and Wright had expected to comment on possible ammendments when the council returned to possible amendments to the ordinance on cannabis growing, but discovered it had not been placed on the October 26 agenda. Instead the two former council members addressed the mayor and council during the Corraleños Forum. Even before that, councillors grilled State Representative Daymon Ely on whether the coming session of the N.M. Legislature might alter state law to give communities greater control.
Ely, a strong proponent of de-criminalizing marijuana cultivation and use, explained that laws on cannabis are undergoing amendment elsewhere around the nation, “but you can’t just say no.”
Councillor Stu Murray asked Ely whether municipalities can effectively ban marijuana cultivation in certain areas, such as residential neighborhoods where such activities would be clearly incompatible.
Ely replied, “Yes, but you’ve got to be careful about that.” He went on to recommend that no action be taken to do that without close consultation with the Village Attorney and the N.M. Municipal League.
At a council work-study session several weeks ago, Hashimoto explained why regulations need to be tighter to protect homeowners from cannabis growers. He followed that with a letter to the mayor and council last month.
“The most pressing matter is to approve an amendment reinstating provisions from Ordinance 18-002, Sections 2 and 3 which prohibit cannabis cultivation, manufacture and distribution from A-1 and A-2 zones with the exception for personal production. Councillor Burkett and others who advocate this are spot on.
“At the work-study session, it was mentioned that amendment No.1 regarding ‘place’ of activity might be reasonable, given who we are as a village. I’d like to speak to that.
“Corrales has had a long history of restricting commercial activities to its neighborhood commercial zones to protect residential neighborhoods from untoward effects of commercial activity, especially those neighborhoods in close proximity to commercial zones.
“I’ve been involved, in one way or another, with the Zoning Ordinance for 35 years. I recall that in the late 1980s, the people who owned the land where the current Montessori School and its parking lot (and land extending east to the Sandoval Lateral) sit, wanted to put in a strip mall which would extend eastward significantly beyond the 350-foot zone limit. The adjacent neighborhood (I happened to live there then) objected strongly and a variance was not granted.
“In the last 35 years, this Corrales Road commercial area (CRCA) has not substantively changed area-wise. Little tweaks have occurred here and there but it is pretty much as it was.
“About 20 years ago, the Neighborhood Commercial Office District (NCOD) was established in the Far Northwest Sector which abuts Rio Rancho near its Northern Boulevard. This has afforded more commercial opportunity —a solar farm is there now— in a relatively low-density village area which is adjacent to the larger municipality and some of its commercial land.
“The Village’s two commercial zones (CRCD and NCOD) encompass a large area. CRCA is from Meadowlark Lane to Wagner Lane and is approximately 8,150 lineal feet. Multiplying this by 700 feet (350-foot depth allowable on each side) = 5,705,000 square feet = 131 acre.
“The NCOD is listed as 73.5 acres… Combined, the CRCA and NCOD contain 204 acres. This number was mentioned at the work-study session; somebody else gave me that number too.
“How big is 204 acres? Well, it’s 8,906,660 square feet; put in more recognizable terms, it’s about 1/3 the total acreage of the Corrales Bosque Preserve (662 acres). That’s a decent-sized commercial area for a village of 8,600 people.
“The gross leasable square footage of Cottonwood Mall is listed by Wikipedia as 1,041,680 square feet and Coronado Center is 1,154,000 square feet with 5,000 parking spaces. Corrales has much more commercial leasable space (8,906,660 x 0.25 (estimation by Urban Land Institute) than both of those malls combined, and the population it serves is miniscule compared with that served by the two malls.
“Corrales has a documented history of not wanting commercial cannabis activity in A-1 and A-2 zones.
“In 2017, Verdes Foundation proposed growing cannabis in a neighborhood residential (A-1 zoned) area. Potential neighbors were concerned about potential impacts on their quality of life and property values. They generated a petition signed by over 300 residents and hired an attorney to support their opposition. Because of significant neighborhood opposition, and beyond, and of lack of council support, Verdes backed out
“In the following year, council passed Ordinance 18-002, which clearly stated that cannabis production, manufacture and retailing should not be allowed in A-1 and A-2 zones. That unambiguously stated the Village’s position on commercial cannabis activities in residential neighborhoods. As time would have it, 18-002 has turned out to be a strong proactive —and not reactive to House Bill 2— statement.
“I would guess that few N.M. municipalities have such documentation of “who we are as a village” and history of opposition to commercial cannabis activities in neighborhood residential (like A-1 and A-2) zones. Los Ranchos would love to have that.
“Unfortunately, Corrales has a subdivision of upset residents who have had to deal on a regular and personal basis with the pungent cannabis growing odor from nearby (up to 1,000 feet away) medical cannabis greenhouses.
“With re-instating Sections 2 and 3 of Ordinance 18-002, commercial cannabis activities can still occur in the commercial zones CRCD and NCOD.
“Ordinance 18-002 prohibited cannabis growing in A-1, A-2 and H zones. It did not disallow cannabis growing in CRCA or NCOD.
“Although Corrales does not have an industrial zone like some other municipalities where cannabis growing, manufacturing and retailing are located separate from residential neighborhood areas, the CRCA and NCOD could be the designated cannabis areas in Corrales.
“Yes (as mentioned in the work-study session), buildings currently exist in CRCA and NCOD, but they do also in industrial zones in other municipalities. And yes, vacant land also exists in CRCA and NCOD.
“Also, greenhouse footprints for micro-business growers are small (could be <= 500 square feet). The footprints for intensively growing cannabis structures can be compact (several thousand square feet). Many of each can locate in the 200+ acres in CRCD and NCOD.
“Approve Amendment No.1 quickly.
It can be approved independently of other amendments which might need to be added in the future. It should be approved before any growers’ licenses are.
The State’s and Village’s laws are flawed, overly permissive and bend over backwards for commercial operations, large and small. Sure, some revenue will be generated for the State and its municipalities and counties. However, this income from cannabis permissiveness should not come at a cost that residential neighborhoods will bear.
“Corrales’s commercial zones are ample and the Village’s stance relative to them and to its strong, proactive opposition to commercial cannabis in residential neighborhoods is well- documented.
“The State’s House Bill 2 will be challenged. ‘Experts’ and attorneys give different opinions on different weeks and in different municipalities. The legislators who supported the law don’t seem sure about some of its aspects. No case law exists yet for commercial recreational cannabis because it hasn’t officially started. Perhaps, Corrales, because of its history, is in the best position to make a good case.
“Whatever the Village does, it can get sued. It might as well get sued doing the right thing, which can result in its being a victor in multiple ways including protecting residential neighborhoods’ quality of life and property values from the onslaught of glittery-appearing commercial cannabis activities.”
Two forecast indicators were published in the last weeks that give a dark, if predictable insight into our warming climate. The first comes from the national weather service’s climate prediction center, in their seasonal outlook maps for the coming three months. These maps, which are made by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA), forecast a winter that will be drier and warmer than usual for New Mexico, where La Niña conditions will return for the second year in a row.
The seasonal maps have given New Mexico a 50-60% chance of having above normal temperatures this winter and a likewise a 33-50% chance of having drier than usual conditions.
La Niña, which means little girl in Spanish, refers to a climate pattern in the Pacific Ocean that brings cooler, wetter weather to the Pacific Northwest and warmer, drier weather to the southern states. It is not unusual for La Niña events to be repeated annually, or to last for more than a year.
The effects of climate change on these weather patterns are still largely unknown, although much research has been done on the link between more extreme weather events and our warming planet.
While the events themselves might not be increasing in frequency or magnitude, according to the American Geophysical Union (AGU), their impacts “are being amplified, as happened during the 2015-16 El Niño. That event resulted in the most extensive and prolonged global coral bleaching episode to date, and a record increase in tropical Pacific storm activity because of the warm underlying ocean temperatures on which it occurred.”
Though far from perfect, the NOAA seasonal predictions have been 40 percent accurate over the last year.
The second indicator comes from the World Meteorological Organization’s (WMO’s) provisional State of the Global Climate 2021 report. This is a preview of the annual report given by the WMO that is based on data for the first nine months of 2021, in the form of a recent press release.
The WMO has records of the earth’s mean temperatures dating back to 1850, and revealed that “the past seven years are on track to be the seven warmest on record. Even though 2021 is expected to be ‘only’ the fifth to seventh warmest year ever… this does not negate or reverse the long-term trend of rising temperatures.”
The temperature chart included with the press release shows a clear, dramatic rise in temperatures from pre-industrial conditions to a post-industrial world.
“The provisional WMO State of the Global Climate 2021 report draws from the latest scientific evidence to show how our planet is changing before our eyes. From the ocean depths to mountain tops, from melting glaciers to relentless extreme weather events, ecosystems and communities around the globe are being devastated,” said United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres.
“COP26 must be a turning point for people and planet," Secretary-General Guterres surmises, referring to the global climate meeting happening right now in Glasgow.
On November 19, Village government will celebrate 50 years since incorporation as a municipality. Ceremonies will include opening of a time capsule sealed 25 years ago. It has been entombed in a crumbling concrete vault near the entrance to the Village Office. Opening of the capsule is set for 2 p.m. “We are not sure what we will find, and we will also be putting some items together to create a new time capsule for future Corraleños to enjoy,” Mayor Roake said. “What would you put in a time capsule? A mask, perhaps?”
On July 4, 1997, villagers gathered to place the time capsule which was to be opened September 22, 2021. (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXXIV NO.9 June 20, 2015 “Creepy, Crumbling Concrete Case Contains July 1997 Time Capsule.”)
In the early 1970s, villagers organized to incorporate as a municipality so they could have their own laws and land use zoning. They were motivated by fears that the farming community along the Rio Grande would soon be annexed by the then-developing Rio Rancho Estates.
By Stephani Dingreville
Corrales is a wild land.
Most communities fit into one of three categories, urban, suburban or rural. However, a new classification is being used ever-increasingly to describe some areas, Corrales among them: WUI.
Pronounced “wooey,” WUI stands for Wildland-Urban Interface. This is where the border of urban development overlaps with an area that has continuous vegetation, called a “wildland”. WUI is that bit of space that is not quite urban, and not quite wild, but a unique, some would say magical, combination of the two.
Overpopulation has added to the amount of land designated as WUI, as housing developers move farther and farther away from urban centers. The pandemic has also driven more people away from populated urban areas to places that offer a bit more room to spread out.
Unfortunately, all the wonderful benefits of living in an untamed, wild space come at a dangerous cost. Namely, the risk of damaging wildfires increases exponentially in a WUI. This has pushed these areas into the spotlight in the last few years, with wildfire incidence on the rise.
The United States Environment Protection Agency (EPA) lists wildfires as one of their climate change indicators. And it is easy to find many statistics supporting this link. The data shows that over the last 30 years, fires have not only increased in size and frequency, but also in the amount of damage they have done to property. This is where WUI lands really come into discussion.
When responding to the buzz around WUI, Corrales Fire Chief Anthony Martinez surmises: “We are living it!” And indeed, a map of the US drawn in 2010 by the Silvas Lab of the University of Wisconsin-Madison classified Corrales almost exclusively as WUI.
Fire fighters face bigger challenges in WUI areas. Many of these areas are further away from fire stations, and the travel time adds to the increased danger. The Corrales Fire Department has an incredibly quick response time for all village fires, but deals with other WUI setbacks.
For one thing, Corrales has many areas that are not covered by a fire hydrant line. This necessitates the transportation of water from a source to the site of a fire. Urban centers typically have city water and fire hydrant lines within reach of all citizens. But this is usually not the case in a WUI.
Another of the fire dangers Corraleños face is the continuous vegetation. Chief Martinez says: “People love the vegetation for the quail, so they can run from yard to yard. But imagine that sagebrush catches fire. We can have 20 to 30 foot flame lengths. Just look at your yard and imagine what that could do.” Even for villagers living far from the bosque, the risk is high.
Chief Martinez readily admits he is not an expert on climate change or global warming. He is only focused on the present conditions right now in Corrales, and the present risks. “I can tell you that something is changing. The Riverside drain has never gone dry, since I have been in Corrales,” the chief asserts. “That has been a reliable source of water for firetrucks to use. However, in the last two to three years, that’s just what has happened.” The CFD has responded to this new threat by placing large water tanks at intervals along the bosque.
Should Corrales have stricter regulations to combat the increased risk of wildfire because of its WUI status?
In 2008, California adopted rules requiring new homes in WUI areas to meet minimum standards on fire-resistant construction and access to water for firefighters. Similar legislation in Austin, Texas was adopted in 2020.
The Chief admits that the village has been reluctant to classify any properties as technically WUI, since this could have implications for insurance premiums. Although the village does receive special funding because of its WUI status, the CFD is unable to use that funding for private property.
Instead, the CFD asks that all Corrales citizens have an “All Hazard Plan”. The chief says this would cover “wildfire, winter storms, flooding, really any emergency.” Examples of these plans can be found online on the US Department of Homeland Security website, Ready.gov.
All villagers are encouraged to sign up for “Code Red” on the CFD website. This system is utilized by the CFD as well as the Corrales Police Department to alert villagers of any emergency.
Another way to stay safe is to remove dead vegetation from Corrales yards. The village is hosting a ‘Community Clean Up’ event on Saturday, November 20 from 8am to noon at the Public Works Building. Green waste will be accepted as well as other household discards.
Villagers are also urged to have controlled burns on their property on designated safe burn days. The CFD’s ‘burn line’ is updated daily and can be reached at (505) 899-1899.
The chief summarizes: “I’m not trying to put fear in anyone, but we need their help. We can’t do it unless everyone in Corrales helps.”
By Stephani Dingreville
At a recent Village council regular meeting, Fire Chief Anthony Martinez spoke about a grant the department had received to build a second fire substation in Corrales. The substation will be at 2200 Loma Larga Rd, on the east side between Penny and Nicky Lanes, where the green water tower now stands. The fire department built the water tower and pump station years ago to refuel pumper trucks. At that time, the chief thought it would be a good idea to have an unmanned substation there to host such a truck along with other equipment.
Chief Martinez has listed the substation on his capital outlay wish list for the last several years. “I am very grateful to be able to make out such a list,” he says. He added that the substation was by no means his top priority. That would have been more money to extend the fire hydrant line along Loma Larga. However, the New Mexico State Legislature voted in favor of the substation, and the chief responded: “I am just happy to have money toward one of my projects.”
“Whenever you design a system, you always want to have redundancies” the chief says. That is what the new substation would be, another redundancy for the already functioning firefighting machine in Corrales, one that would also increase efficiency.
Chief Martinez told a story about a fire that the department fought recently on the West side of Loma Larga. It was during a storm, and high winds had knocked out the power at the pump house for the afore-mentioned water tower. So the firefighters had to divert two minutes to a hydrant that was hooked up to the main fire station’s pump.
Two minutes might not make much of a difference, but when the new fire substation is built, it will have a back-up generator that can be used for the pump, allowing the absolute closest water supply to be used for any emergency.
A new substation also brings more funding from the State Fire Marshall’s Office. These funds can then be used for the other items on Chief Anthony’s wishlist, including equipment, training, personnel, and, of course, that fire hydrant line. There are grant-match opportunities available that the money could also be used for. “There is a return on the investment” the chief says, “it just takes a few years.”
Chief Martinez is unsure when construction will begin. “This grant is just for the first phase of the project, the design and some construction hopefully,” he says. He goes on to say about the design: “Because of the pandemic, I’m actually looking at the feasibility of using this substation as a location for a vaccination drive-through. The site has plenty of room for cars. Before the pandemic it was never even a thought, but now it might just be a possibility.”
If coal has to go, followed by natural gas, and solar and wind power are faulted for presumed inability to respond to demand for electricity at the slip of a switch, that would seem to favor future reliance on nuclear power. But Americans have been reluctant to embrace that option primarily due to recurring radiation contamination disasters involving the nuclear fuel cycle: Kyshtym, Russia (1957), Three Mile Island, Pennsylvania (1979), Chernobyl, Ukraine (1986) and Fukushima, Japan (2011).
Initially, as U.S. officials argued for rapid de-carbonization of energy production in this country, there was scarcely any mention of nuclear power as a replacement. During the 2015 negotiations leading to the Paris Accord on climate change, U.S. officials generally steered clear of advancing that option, and that avoidance continued until recently.
Perhaps that was because the watchword was “renewables,” primarily referring to electrical generation using the sun and wind, and the use of finite uranium as a fuel source did not conform to the terminology.
At any rate, the Biden administration’s proposal to combat climate change under consideration in Congress included subsidies for nuclear power in a $300 billion spending package.
Currently, the United States has 55 commercial nuclear power plants, mostly east of the Mississippi River. But the largest is the Palo Verde plant in Arizona which has helped generate electricity for New Mexico as well.
The newest began selling power in October 2016; two more nuclear plant reactors are under construction in Georgia.
So far, commercial nuclear plants generate about 20 percent of U.S. electricity consumption, and about 55 percent of its carbon-free production.
In total, the United States is the world’s biggest producer of nuclear power, accounting for more than 30 percent. But few new plants have been added during the past 30 years.
The World Nuclear Association explains why construction of new nuclear power plants in this country had virtually stopped. “Almost all the U.S. nuclear generating capacity comes from reactors built between 1967 and 1990. Until 2013, there had been no new construction starts since 1977, largely because for a number of years, gas generation was considered more economically attractive and because construction schedules during the 1970s and 1980s had frequently been extended by opposition and compounded by heightened safety fears following the Three Mile Island accident in 1979.”
Ongoing opposition to nuclear power in this country, as elsewhere, comes partly from uncertainty over how to dispose of the plants’ extremely long-lived waste —tens of thousands of years if not hundreds of thousands.
New Mexico is front and center for that controversy. The U.S. Department of Energy’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) opened in 1999 near Carlsbad, but only for radioactive materials discarded after weapons production. No disposal site has been designated for spent fuel rods from power plants.
For that reason, a new controversy has arisen over plans to open a site in southeastern New Mexico for interim storage of power plant waste. That proposal continues under review by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
But that need to keep waste fuel rods out of the accessible environment for at least 10,000 years—some experts say the period of isolation should be tens of millions of years— has not deterred officials in other countries increasingly dependent on nuclear power.
France relies on nuclear power for 76 percent of its electricity, and still has no final disposal site.
Last month, French President Emmanuel Macron announced a plan to expand his nation’s commitment to nuclear power. He would spend the equivalent of $34.6 billion on that over the next five years. Even so, his government has made commitments to substantially reduce the country’s reliance on nuclear power. That is supposed to drop to 50 percent by 2035. Under the plan presented in 2018, 14 of France’s nuclear power reactors would shut down by 2035, with as many as six closing in 2030.
About 17 percent of that nation’s power is generated using recycled (re-processed) nuclear fuel, according to the World Nuclear Association.
In France, there seems to be little if any resistance to nuclear power.
A French physicist who lives in Corrales, Remi Dingreville, explained why that’s the case.
“When I was a kid at school, we were taught that we were one of the leading nations that developed and maintained safe and secure nuclear power, and that 75 percent of the nation’s electricity at the time came from nuclear. That started with Charles DeGaulle, right after World War II basically. He said as a nation we need energy independence, and therefore we’re going to develop nuclear power. Since then France has been a key player in terms of the science and technology for nuclear power.”
He said development of nuclear power is a cornerstone of DeGaulle’s popular legacy.
Dingreville has lived in the United States for the past 20 years and pointed out he is not an expert on nuclear power in France or here. Acceptance of the nuclear option for electrical generation is also based on the fact that France has scant other options: little oil and gas and little remaining coal. Much of the country’s non-nuclear power comes from hydroelectric generators.
Another reason is French citizens’ trust in the industry’s expertise and governmental infrastructure. “I believe that every reactor in France is exactly the same design, and whenever there is an issue at one specific reactor, the Electricite de France (Electricity of France authority) sees to it that the correction is propagated to all the other reactors in France.”
For that reason, despite France’s heavy reliance on nuclear power, it has experienced no large-scale accidents like those in Chernobyl and Fukushima.
Dingreville noted that President Macron’s recently announced energy policies for 2030 included a major commitment to developing, building and marketing small modular reactors. “A big part of that strategy was to make France a leader in using and selling small modular reactors,” which are expected to further reduce risks.
He said the future mini-nuclear plants might be sized and deployed to power a small town in de-centralized locations. An advantage of one of the designs in development is that the crucial need for cooling is resolved by combining the uranium fuel with a molten salt coolant. “It becomes a closed loop. Because the units are smaller and because the fuel is in the coolant, it is safer.”
Even so, the physicist conceded, solutions must eventually be found to dispose of nuclear waste from large or small power plants.
“I understand people’s concerns when it comes to accidents and to waste disposal.”
More than a quarter-million metric tons of highly radioactive waste are in storage near nuclear power plants and weapons production facilities around the world. More than 90,000 metric tons of that are in the United States. Some of it has been awaiting permanent disposal since the 1940s.
The United States and China lead the world in using nuclear plants to generate electricity, but France produces more nuclear waste per capita than any other country —approximately two kilos of radioactive waste per person per year.
The French government’s current attempts to dispose of toxic waste from power plants focus on burial within clay near the town of Bure. Until that is available, much of the fuel waste is stored in pools of water near the reactors where it was produced.
In the early 1960s, France buried radioactive wastes at secret sites in Algeria’s Sahara Desert.
Spencer Komadina, the son of former Corrales lawmaker and long time physician Steve Komadina was shot and killed in Corrales on the night of October 30 at his home. Corrales Police Department (CPD) Chief of Police Victor Mangiacapra told the Comment that CPD officers responded to a residence in the 300 block of Paseo De Corrales Del Norte to investigate a report of “a subject who had just shot his roommate and stated that he was going to kill himself.”
The officers talked the individual out of the home and took him into custody, identifying him as 60-year-old Joel A. Ray. The victim, 46-year-old Komadina, was found deceased within the residence. A search warrant was obtained for the premises and executed by the New Mexico State Police Crime Scene Investigations Team. Numerous articles of evidence, including a .45 caliber handgun, were seized and are being processed as part of the ongoing investigation.
A Corrales Ordinance, SECTION 24-1, “Discharge of Weapons”, states: “Prohibited generally. It is unlawful to discharge any revolver, pistol, shotgun, rifle, or firearm of any description or kind, or any air gun, gas-operated gun, spring gun, or any bow made for the purpose of projecting or throwing arrows or missiles of any kind, except in a regularly established shooting gallery; provided, that no citizen shall be denied the right to bear arms for lawful defense of person or property.”
Ray was booked into the Sandoval County Detention Center on one count of murder.
Spencer Komadina was one of the partners behind SWOP, the retail cannabis operation now operating at 4604 Corrales Road. He also oversaw three greenhouses, as well as a “head house,” or nursery, for new plants on the Komadina property at 379 Camino de Corrales del Norte.
Ray, Komadina’s alleged roommate, was first identified as an associate of Komadina’s. However the chief asserts: “We currently have no information which would indicate that this incident has anything to do with the victim's business dealings.”
“Members of the Corrales Police Department, Sandoval County Sheriff's Office and New Mexico State Police are continuing to work diligently to piece together the details of this tragic event. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and many friends of the victim,” the chief concludes.
Steve Komadina, Spencer’s father, was a Republican New Mexico State Senator from 2001-2008.
On his Facebook page, Komadina writes of his son, “he was a wonderful and loving father, a loyal brother, and a person with a life full of friends.” He goes on to say SPENCER’S “three children were his pride and joy and he would do anything for them.”
A memorial service was planned for .Albuquerque on November 4.
U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland on April 16, 2021 issued two executive orders prioritizing action on climate change and revoking Trump administration policies promoting fossil fuel development. The orders ensured that the social cost of carbon use and other climate pollution will be considered in decision-making, and instructs agencies within the Department of the Interior not to adhere to the Trump-era regulations implementing the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). They also focused on economic justice and a just transition for communities most reliant on fossil fuels.
In support of those measures, environmental groups in New Mexico issued the following statements.
“The age of Trump’s devastating energy dominance regime is over,” said Camilla Feibelman, director of the Sierra Club’s Rio Grande Chapter. “Secretary Haaland is leading the way to justice for people, our communities, the climate, our air and our water. Centering tribal consultation, public participation, science and the social cost of carbon are key steps to ensuring a habitable planet for ourselves and future generations.”
The “Leave It In the Ground” mantra that gained volume during and after the United Nations 2015 climate change conference in Paris now reverberates loudly in New Mexico. Our state is, in fact, leaving it in the ground. Led by Public Service Company of New Mexico, a shift away from fossil fuels has been underway for more than six years —at least for coal mining. But oil and gas production is another matter, apparently a more intractable problem. In that same six-year period, New Mexico has become one of the top three producers of oil in the nation, behind Texas and North Dakota.
Last year, a record 367.8 million barrels of oil were pulled out of the ground in New Mexico, as well as a record 1.9 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, according to records kept by the N.M. Department of Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources.
PNM’s widely publicized move away from burning coal to generate electricity has been incentivized by the State Legislature’s passage of the Energy Transition Act. Signed into law in March 2019, the act requires that at least half of all energy produced by the state’s investor-owned utilities be from renewable sources by 2030, jumping to 80 percent ten years later, and to 100 percent by 2045.
At the time the legislation was signed by Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, it was touted as New Mexico taking the lead nationally in moving away from fossil fuels.
“This is a really big deal,” she said. “In every corner of this state, advocates, utilities, young adults, unions, elected officials and families came together to push for, and today, enact, this transformational law.”
Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez praised the accomplishment as well, saying, “This legislation is a milestone for not just the State of New Mexico and the Southwest, but all of the United States, including tribal communities. This is a gift for our children and children of New Mexico who are yet to be born. Clean energy is the future of our nation.”
To implement the mandates, PNM has already shut down half of the units of its San Juan Generating Station and is scheduled to shut down the remainder by the end of next year. Even so, negotiations have begun for an alternative ownership and management of the same power plant, perhaps operating with a carbon-capture unit. PNM has said it will stop burning coal at its other major power plant, the Four Corners Generating Station by 2031. Already three of its units were shut down, and one of the two remaining is to generate electricity only seasonally starting in 2023.
That still leaves prodigious amounts of fossil fuel use in this state, much of which has been facilitated by decades of federally subsidized production. On that front, U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich came out publicly September 23 in favor of terminating those.
In a letter to environmental organizations who had pressed him to take a stand against those federal programs, Heinrich wrote, “You asked for my support for ending fossil fuel subsidies, and you have it.”
The push is on to end oil and gas drilling and production on federal land, a permitting process generally within the purview of the U.S. Secretary of the Interior, who is a New Mexican.
This fall, Secretary Deb Haaland, a member of Laguna Pueblo, said she favors restrictions on future oil and gas production from federal lands, but “we’re not going to stop gas and oil overnight; that’s just an impossibility right now.”
What was possible, and in fact happened, was a temporarily moratorium on oil and gas lease sales on resources under her department’s control. That was done administratively, almost immediately after Joe Biden assumed the presidency.
Although his action was challenged in court, it was ordered so that Interior could conduct a programmatic review of federal leasing and its impact on climate change.
Haaland pointed out that fossil fuel extraction from federal lands accounted for 25 percent of all carbon dioxide emissions nationwide.
The secretary’s eventual decisions on oil and gas leasing from federal land are likely to face legal challenges. In the meantime, her agency’s issuance of leases dropped from 671 in April of this year to 171 in August.
But the stakes are high. Oil and gas production paid an estimated $2.8 billion into the N.M. Treasury during the past fiscal year, and well over half of that came from production on federal land in this state.
According to the State Land Office, which manages oil and gas leasing on land owned by the State, 96 percent of the $1.2 billion revenue during fiscal year 2021 came from oil and gas.
And then there’s uranium… not a fossil fuel exactly, but saddled with its own intractable problems. The lethal effects of uranium mining, and the need to isolate nuclear power plants’ spent fuel rods from the environment for thousands of years are well known to Interior Secretary Haaland.
Laguna Pueblo experienced some of the state’s worst health effects from exposure to radiation from mining and milling uranium, and associated accidents.
Still, New Mexico ranks second in the United States for uranium ore reserves, estimated at 64 million short tons of ore.
Among factors that could keep uranium in the ground even if a global shunning of fossil fuels is reinforced by agreements in Glasgow: ample reserves of high-grade, low-cost uranium in Canada and Australia compared to those in New Mexico.
Unless you’re one of us who expects to live forever, if you’re now 50, chances are you’ll be long gone by 2050. But not if you’re now 15. By 2050, the target by which the United Sates government aims to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions, a 15-year-old will be 44 —and suffering through relentless summer temperatures over 100 degrees, food shortages, droughts and wildfires.
That’s the probable reality that today’s youth contemplates as it demands action from governments and corporations to head off the worst consequences of certain climate change.
“It’s different for young people,” a sixteen-year-old said in a report this fall on psychological trauma due to impending climate disruptions. “For us the destruction of the planet is personal.”
The survey of 10,000 people aged 16 to 25 was conducted in 10 countries as a collaboration of five universities. Among findings: nearly 60 percent of young people responded that they felt very worried or extremely worried about climate change, and 75 percent said the future is frightening.
For years now, Sweden’s Greta Thunberg has been the face and the voice of youth protest against government inaction to confront climate change. She and her global Fridays for Future are expected to be a center of attention during the United Nations climate conference in Scotland this month.
“Young people all over the world are well aware that the people in power are failing us,” the teenager said.
Last month, 133 people were arrested during a five-day protest in Washington DC organized by People vs. Fossil Fuels. An 11-year-old pointed out “We shouldn’t have to do this. We shouldn’t have to go up and tell them what they’re doing right now is wrong.”
Corrales Comment reporter Scott Manning will cover the youth contingent at the upcoming COP-26 in which nearly every national government in the world is expected to make commitments to bring down greenhouse gas emissions.
A public opinion survey in developed countries by the University of Oxford and the U.N. Development Program (UNDP) late last month revealed that 70 percent of respondents under age 18 believe the planet is in the grips of a climate emergency.
“Given that emergency, young people are sending a message to global leaders that is loud and clear: they want climate action now,” UNDP Administrator Achim Steinger said October 25.
“The world is watching, hoping that countries will come together at COP-26 in Glasgow to make bold, historic decisions that will literally change the future.”
He noted that the Group of 20 [most developed nations’ economic development organization] account for 80 percent of the global economy and 75 percent of global emissions. Without bold action by this group, he reminded, it will be impossible to keep global warming to 1.5 degrees Centigrade above pre-industrial levels as called for in the 2015 Paris Accord.
The survey distributed across mobile gaming networks drew 1.2 million respondents including 550,000 in the 14-18 age category.
By Meredith Hughes
On a recent sunny morning, Silverleaf Farms employees were slowly and steadily picking peppers—a range of peppers planted on part of six acres under a conservation easement in what is known as Ventana Grande Smith, along the Corrales Acequia at the southern end of the village.
There was an urgency to the effort, as the weather was soon to turn much colder. Elan Silverblatt, co-founder of Silverleaf with his brother, Aaron, about 12 years ago, said that many of the plants being plucked had been re-planted after a late and sudden hail storm in the spring, “So we want to gather as much as possible in the next couple of days.” About 1,500 pounds worth.
Noting that weather predictability is a tough call, especially as close as Corrales is to the river, Silverblatt tipped his hat metaphorically to the global issues of climate change but said, “On any given day we do not focus on climate change. That’s not our job. But don’t forget —photosynthesis is carbon sequestering, and every day we enable that.” The U.S. Forest Service defines that activity this way: “Carbon sequestration is the process by which atmospheric carbon dioxide is taken up by trees, grasses, and other plants through photosynthesis and stored as carbon in biomass (trunks, branches, foliage, and roots) and soils.”
Silverblatt further explains that Silverleaf’s primary job is “sustainability, maintaining soil health and biodiversity through rotation, and growing and delivering fresh local foods.”
Plus, by selling primarily locally sourced foods, Silverleaf largely eliminates the element of long distance transport, a key climate change issue. However, during the COVID-19 pandemic, one bizarre long-distance product proved tough to get. “Pumice,” explained Silverblatt, “is key to our potting soil mix. The state with the most pumice in the United States? New Mexico. Could we get our usual delivery? No. It had to be brought in from Illinois.”
Packing materials cost the farm about 20 percent more, seeds were harder to secure, and gloves used for picking and packing also became somewhat scarce and expensive.
So, in recent months, COVID changes somewhat overrode climate change concerns. Silverblatt did chuckle and add, “Were a major non-profit to fund for us a solar-powered lab filled with intricate instruments precisely tracking changes in climate in the fields we farm — about 20 acres— we would be delighted to do climate experiments and garner data points.”
But for now, Silverleaf does what it does best —with 10 employees, and no sales staff. “We’ve seen that restaurants, grocery stores, our drive-thru and market customers —and we are indeed grateful for them— are already sold. They seek quality, which is not a hard sell.” Given the high product standards the team is known for, Silverleaf is able to donate major amounts of produce to New Mexico non-profits, much arranged through Seed2Need, but also through Food is Free Albuquerque, an offshoot of a Food is Free front yard community garden effort started about seven years ago in Austin, Texas.
A consistent year round Silverleaf favorite is “Butter Crunch Living Lettuce,” grown in the greenhouse at their headquarters, along with small cucumbers seasonally, and watercress. “Growing lettuce here in the high desert outdoors is hard, obviously” pointed out Silverblatt, clearly pleased with the farm’s solar-powered greenhouse setup.
Heading out of the pepper field, after taking a look at an acre of purple radish not quite ready to be harvested, Silverblatt reflected on the fact that the land on which all was growing has been continuously farmed since the late 1800s. According to an article by Linda Walsh in Corrales Comment in April 2018, “it was a vineyard famous for its brandy and with some vegetable production. Thanks to the research of Mary Davis, we know that some of the earliest recorded owners of the property trace their origins to a small coal mining town in northern France. The Lermusiaux family immigrated to the United States in 1887 and eventually settled in New Mexico and Corrales. It is known that by the 1920 census two families lived on the property, one of these families were descendants of Lermusiaux.”
In the 1950s Dorothy Smith and her husband Wallace bought a 1860s adobe house which became known as Ventana Grande, sitting on two and a half acres. And they soon added to that, raising cattle, hay and alfalfa, while both worked full time. Dorothy’s niece, Alana McGrattan, would later preserve a portion of the farm, 6.3 acres, through a conservation easement.
At age 91, explaining why she had agreed to the conservation easement, Smith cautioned, “There’s no turning back when you turn farms into subdivisions. People have got to start thinking about saving farmland now. When you look back at all the farmland that has been lost to houses, you realize that you’ve got to do more with what you have.”
Silverblatt decidedly agrees, referencing that “Acreage in Corrales costs hundreds of thousands of dollars.” Not to mention the cost of planting cover crops, which have many pluses for a small farm. They handle too much water as well as too little, improve soil health, smother weeds, and increase biodiversity, defined once as “the variety and variability of life.” All critters, great and small, in other words.
The United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity states that “climate change is likely to become one of the most significant drivers of biodiversity loss by the end of the century.”
Fortunately, goats are still here, and are eager to munch down whatever is left of a cover crop. For Silverleaf, they consumed about two acres of vetch and rye grass at Ventana Grande Smith. “We got the land cleared and fertilized naturally, and they ate well,” said Silverblatt. One hundred twenty goats —Boers, Spanish breed and Nigerian dwarves— provided by Max Wade’s Rio Rancho-based Galloping Goats— worked from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in late May, left their personal deposits, and worked the soil “like little rototillers,” as Wade put it.
Wade’s goats already have done a project for Corrales Fire Chief Anthony Martinez in the Sandia Bosque and will do more for the N.M. Forestry Division, taking on salt cedars and such —and they even will gobble goatheads, though not when the plants are fully festooned with said heads.
Meanwhile, the Silverleaf Farm Stand at Milagro Vineyards and Winery, started during the beginning of COVID, continues, posting products Monday, for sale online and to be picked up Thursday via drive thru at the winery. The product line has grown from veggies and wine to a range of cheeses, breads, meats, nuts, sauces —look for a habanero sauce soon, to add to the jalapeño and cayenne sauces— and even Vermont Creamery butter at $13 a pound. It’s not cheap, but “we cannot produce quality food locally at commodity prices,” as Silverblatt put it.
Other products returning in spring include custom-blended potting soils and plant starts, so that locals can try to grow quality food, too.
“The State of New Mexico will support the 2015 Paris Agreement Goals by joining the U.S. Climate Alliance. New Mexico’s objective is to achieve a statewide reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of at least 45 percent by 2030 as compared to 2005 levels.”
That policy statement by the government of New Mexico is highlighted in Executive Order 2019-003 signed by Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham on January 29, 2019.
At a state “Climate Summit” conference October 25 this year, the governor said she will ask the N.M. Legislature in January to enact those policies into law, putting the state’s economy on a path for “net zero by 2050.”
Among the 19 introductory “whereas” statements in the 2019 climate related executive order are the following.
“Whereas climate change creates new risks and exacerbates existing vulnerabilities in communities across New Mexico and presents growing challenges for human health and safety, quality of life and the rate of economic growth;
“Whereas in a special report authored by the United Nations and World Meteorological Organization Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, it was found that the planet has as little as 12 years to take meaningful climate action in order to limit the increase in global average temperature to 1.5 degrees centigrade —the level necessary to forestall dramatic climatic changes that will further imperil our water supplies;
“Whereas carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulfur hexafluoride are recognized as the six greenhouse gases contributing to climate change;”
“Whereas federal roll-backs of climate protections, waste prevention and clean air rules have made it imperative for New Mexico to act to protect our citizens and our economy from the damages of climate change impacts….”
The importance of developing such a strategy is established by the fact, stated in the document, that “New Mexico produces about 70 percent more greenhouse gas emissions per capita than the national average. New Mexicans produce around 31 tons per person per year, while the average in the United States is 18 tons per person. New Mexico’s high per capita emissions are largely the result of our greenhouse gas-intensive oil and gas industry, which makes up a significant portion of our overall greenhouse gas emissions profile.”
The governor’s executive order established an inter-agency Climate Change Task Force to develop a “New Mexico Climate Strategy.” The conclusions section reads as follows.
“Since Governor Lujan Grisham signed Executive Order 2019-003, bringing New Mexico to the forefront of states taking ambitious climate action, we have made rapid progress towards our goals. New Mexico joined the U.S. Climate Alliance and committed to a statewide reduction of greenhouse gas emissions of at least 45 percent by 2030, as compared to 2005 levels. Legislation signed into law by the governor during the 2019 legislative session demonstrates the seriousness and speed of our work.
“New Mexico’s landmark Energy Transition Act contains one of the most ambitious renewable energy and zero-carbon electricity standards in the United States and establishes worker and community transition funds.
“Our electric utility efficiency standards are stronger than ever. The Climate Change Task Force, which spans all state agencies, has developed an initial suite of ambitious policies to accelerate our transition into a clean energy future.
“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 —among many others detailed in this Climate Strategy report— are already beginning to come to fruition. This is only the beginning of our action.
“Over the next year we will refine our policies, accelerate their implementation, and acquire modeling data to demonstrate the success of our work.”
The inter-agency report includes steps to better control various kinds of greenhouse gas emissions.
“Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) are a component of the industrial sector’s greenhouse gas emissions profile. HFCs are gaseous compounds used as refrigerants in air conditioning systems and refrigerators, blowing agents in foams, propellants in medicinal aerosols, and cleaning agents. HFCs contain carbon, fluorine, hydrogen, and water vapor. Unlike the generation of refrigerants that preceded them (phased out by the 1987 Montreal Protocol), they do not damage the ozone layer.
“However, HFCs are powerful greenhouse gases, with a warming potential 1,300 to 3,700 times greater than an equivalent amount of CO2. Some states, including California, Vermont and Washington, have set targets to reduce HFC emissions by as much as 40 percent by 2030. Other states, like New York, Connecticut and Maryland, are developing rules based on California’s regulations.
The N.M. Environment Department (NMED) is writing rules to mitigate HFC emissions and HFC use in New Mexico. These rules will be published as early as 2021.
“The electricity sector has historically been one of New Mexico’s largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions. This sector includes all the electricity generated in the state.
To cut greenhouse gas emissions from the electricity sector, New Mexico is taking a two-pronged approach. First, we are transitioning from fossil fuel-burning power plants to zero-carbon electricity generation sources.
“We will achieve this result no later than 2045 for large utilities, and 2050 for all electricity generators. Secondly, we are concentrating on increasing energy efficiency in our homes, businesses and industries. Improving energy efficiency not only helps New Mexico reach our goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but it has the bonus of saving New Mexicans money on their electricity bills.…
“In 2019, New Mexico passed major legislation to reduce emissions in the electricity sector. The Energy Transition Act (SB 489) sets one of the most ambitious renewable portfolio standards in the United States and provides tools to support New Mexico’s transition to carbon-free electricity.
“Successful implementation of the Energy Transition Act will require a modernized electricity grid. We will need to build new transmission lines and invest in energy storage. Building this infrastructure will ensure that New Mexico’s renewable energy serves New Mexicans in addition to providing statewide economic benefits by selling our excess generation to neighboring states.
“To make sure that our grid modernization is successful, the New Mexico Renewable Energy Transmission Authority (RETA) is performing a study to find out what our transmission and storage needs will look like in a decarbonized electric sector. In parallel to RETA’s work, New Mexico was one of four states selected to work with the National Governors Association and the U.S. Department of Energy on state-level grid modernization strategies. This program, which is already underway, provides New Mexico with crucial additional technical assistance, in-state training, and financial assistance in modernizing our grid.
“Businesses, homeowners, and public facilities can also reduce electricity emissions by installing their own renewable energy generation equipment - such as rooftop solar – creating distributed generation.
“We can think of renewable electricity generation as having two different formats: utility-scale generation and distributed generation. Utility-scale generation mostly means large wind, solar, and battery storage facilities developed by and for utilities. Distributed generation means smaller-scale projects, like installing solar panels on a home or business. We call this kind of generation ‘distributed energy resources’ because it is more geographically dispersed than larger, utility-run projects.
“In 2018, New Mexico produced approximately 66.7 million metric tons (MMT) of greenhouse gas emissions —an amount equal to approximately 1 percent of the total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions (6,457 MMT). New Mexico’s emissions are a byproduct of the oil and natural gas industry, cars and trucks, electricity production, industrial sources, and agriculture.”
Can an international treaty be forged to protect the earth’s atmosphere?
Firm precedence exists that nations can establish rules to control abuse of global common use areas. One of those agreements, referred to as the Law of the Seas, dates back to the 1600s when the Dutch philosopher and jurist Hugo Grotius gained wide acceptance for his proposition that the open seas were like the air, a common property of all.
“The air belongs to this class of things for two reasons,” Grotius argued in Latin for his Mare Liberum. “First, it is not susceptible of occupation and second, its common use is destined for all men. For the same reasons the sea is common to all, because it is so limitless that it cannot become a possession of any one, and because it is adapted for the use of all, whether we consider it from the point of view of navigation or of fisheries.”
Grotius’ idea persisted, and found its way into a 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. It went into full force and effect when it was ratified by the required number of nations in 1994.
If there is reason enough to consider the oceans as common use areas, surely the same would apply to the air, as Grotius made clear.
And the Law of the Seas is not the only precedent.
The Antarctic Treaty, signed by parties to the agreement in Washington, DC on December 1, 1959, could be a blueprint for how to manage the thin layer of gases that keep our planet habitable. Covering the entire continent, the treaty created “a natural reserve, devoted to peace and science” to benefit humanity in its entirety.
Although Antarctica is the only large landmass that falls within an international framework for protections as a global commons, there is growing recognition that other parts of the planet deserve that as well. The Global Commons Alliance has proposed “a plan for the planet” that aims to restore stability to the earth’s capacity to sustain life.
“The global commons are things we all share— all 7.8 billion people, and that we all need them to thrive and prosper. They include the atmosphere and land, the ocean and ice sheets, a stable climate and abundant biodiversity, the forests, the gigantic flows of carbon, nitrogen, water and phosphorus and more.
“While we all need and share these global commons, they are being over-used by some at the expense of others. This has now reached a critical point. ultimately, we are jeopardizing the stability of a planet that has supported civilization for 10,000 years.”
Ground-breaking research on principles to guide management of the earth’s commons won Indiana University economics professor Elinor Ostrom a Nobel Prize in 2009.
Her 2012 book The Future of the Commons: Beyond Market Failure and Government Regulations outlines where thoughtful problem-solving is headed.
Former Senator Tom Udall’s legacy-sealing legislation, the “30 By 30 Resolution” called for concerted and sustained action to halt destruction of natural ecosystems, establishing a national goal of conserving at least 30 percent of the land and ocean of the United States by the year 2030.
In it, Udall asserts that “conserving and restoring nature is one of the most efficient and cost-effective strategies for fighting climate change.” (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXXIX No.13 September 19, 2020 “Senator Tom Udall Urges Push to ‘Save Nature’ By 2030.”)
The public lands of the West, managed primarily by the U.S. Department of the Interior and the U.S. Forest Service, represent the best, if not only, possibility for accomplishing that.
The global stage is set for what may be one of the most momentous gatherings in human history. Perhaps that’s too dramatic for what after all will be an event organized by a bloated bureaucracy, the United Nations and its cumbersome infrastructure, for the 26th conference of the parties (COP-26) that began nearly 30 years ago. Among the more than 100 heads of state who will participate are President Joe Biden, French Premier Emmanuel Macron, Pope Francis and Queen Elizabeth. World leaders from 197 countries will be engulfed by an estimated 20,000 world citizens and reporters—including two representing Corrales Comment— and an abundance of celebrities including Greta Thunberg, Al Gore and Sir David Attenborough, to name but a few.
COP-26 will open at the Scottish Event Center in Glasgow on October 31 and get down to work nearly around the clock until November 12. Groundwork has been laid for months, especially by President Biden’s special diplomat John Kerry, the single most important driver for the 2015 Paris climate change accord. (See Corrales Comment’s “Dispatch No. 10 from Paris at http://www.corralescomment.com.)
COP diplomats, negotiators and scientists have not convened for the past two years due to the coronavirus pandemic; extraordinary precautions are being taken to avoid what could easily become a global COVID-19 super-spreader event in Glasgow. The fact that it is happening at all is stark testimony to a perceived emergency.
The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a dire warning this summer that declared a “code red for humanity” if governments cannot take bold action quickly to address the now-evident climate crisis.
(See Corrales Comment’s verbatim text of the report’s summary for policy makers starting in the August 21, 2021 issue.)
A cynical view of the decision to hold COP-26 despite health threats might suggest Kerry and other activists want to move ahead now to extract governments’ commitments, taking advantage of climate calamities that occurred over the past year. Wildfires, droughts, flooding and other disasters may not be as gripping two or three years from now, given natural variability.
Regardless whether climate-related disasters ebb or surge in the near future, what’s at stake in Glasgow will remain consistent. To avoid a 1.5 degree centigrade rise in global warming compared to pre-industrial levels, emissions of planet-warming greenhouse gases must be net-zero by 2050.
What kinds of concrete actions can be taken to achieve that before irreversible damage befalls life on earth will be key in Glasgow.
Although the urgency is now more clearly perceived than during the 2015 COP-21 Paris Accord deliberations, the basic issues remain:
Those issues and policy choices were clearly established in the Paris Accord and international agreements leading up to it over the past 30 years.
To the dismay of many, the COP-21 agreement in 2015 did not include any mandatory reductions in carbon emissions by signatories to the accord. Nations only agreed to state their intentions to take steps to control activities that would increase the likelihood of climate disasters.
The primary product of the Paris Accord was agreement that each country would set down a marker for an “intended nationally determined contribution” to the international goal of holding down global warming.
The fact that governments were not to be held accountable for assuring that emissions decreased was considered a significant failure of COP-21. In reality, no agreement at all would have been achieved if negotiators, such as John Kerry, had insisted on a binding treaty.
Instead, after stating an intention, governments were to be encouraged over coming years to “increase their ambition,” presumably raising their “nationally determined contribution” to the global effort.
At COP-26, environmental groups and climate militants are sure to demand more teeth, with terms more closely resembling a treaty. That outcome is unlikely in Glasgow, although the process leading to that could begin.
Look for such a treaty at COP-28, 29 or 30 as the world’s national governments feel the heat. By then, the U.S. government will be approaching the 2030 deadline by which it has said it will have reduced greenhouse gas emissions to half what they were in 2005.
The Biden administration announced this spring that it has raised the U.S. “nationally determined contribution” (NDC) with the intention to achieve 100 percent carbon-free electrical generation by 2035.
At what was called a “leaders’ summit on climate” this past April, the administration submitted to the United Nations a new NDC which set updated goals, policies and actions covering all such emissions, including methane and hydrofluorocarbons as well as carbon dioxide.
In a statement issued for the new target, the administration said “The federal government will work with state, local, and tribal governments to support the rapid deployment of carbon pollution-free electricity-generating resources, transmission, and energy storage, and leverage the carbon pollution-free energy potential of power plants retrofitted with carbon capture and existing nuclear.”
The new submission recognized the transport sector as the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States “due to its high dependency on fossil fuels, with more than 90 percent of energy use coming from petroleum.
“The NDC lists a number of policies, some of which sub-national governments have already employed to reduce emissions in the sector, including: tailpipe emissions and efficiency standards; incentives for zero-emission personal vehicles; funding for charging infrastructure to support multi-unit dwellings, public charging, and long-distance travel.”
To implement those policies, Biden issued Executive Order No. 14008 to:
But the president’s touted skills bringing Democrats and Republicans to compromise on important issues did not prevail last month when his own party’s progressives and moderates could not agree on passing the clean electricity program which was the centerpiece of his promised effort to get the United States to net zero emissions from electric power generation by 2035.
“I’m presenting a commitment to the world that we will, in fact, get to net zero emissions on electric power by 2025, and net zero emissions across the board by 2050 or before,” Biden said October 21 during a CNN special. “But we have to do so much between now and 2030 to demonstrate what we’re going to do to get there.”
Biden is expected to arrive at COP-26 on November 1, presumably accompanied by his chief climate advisor Gina McCarthy and global climate ambassador John Kerry. McCarthy was President Barack Obama’s head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, while Kerry was Secretary of State in that administration and Democratic Party nominee for president in 2004.
As COP-26 plays out in Glasgow, New Mexico and its climate-related policies will attract attention at least on the periphery. Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham will attend the conference in person, and is expected to serve on a panel laying out state governments’ actions to control global warming.
That’s seen as all the more important in the face of Congress’ failure to adopt the Biden climate plan.
“I know that we, as a state, as a nation, as a planet, must go further by pursuing bold, equitable and just climate solutions,” Governor Lujan Grisham said in a statement late last month. “I am looking forward to this significant opportunity for collaboration and action at the global level.”
New Mexico’s efforts to end electrical power generation from coal and shift to renewable energy sources will be highlighted, as will the ban on routine venting and flaring of natural gas. But so will New Mexico’s expediting increased exploitation of oil and natural gas resources.
Lujan Grisham signed the state’s 2019 Energy Transition Act that required Public Service Company of New Mexico and other public utilities to switch to renewables to generate electricity. Her participation in the world climate conference was coordinated with the White House during her October 22 visit to Washington representing the Democratic Governors Association which she chairs.
While the United States and most other nations increased their ambitions to confront climate change, 42 percent did not by the UN’s July 30 deadline for NDC submissions.
Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of the world body’s Framework Convention on Climate Change, cautioned that “collective efforts fall far short of what is required by science to limit a global temperature rise by the end of the century of two degrees Centigrade, let alone the desired objective of less than 1.5 degrees.”
Espinosa pointed out that the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had analyzed current conditions and projections and concluded that “by the end of this decade emissions must have been reduced by at least 45 percent compared to 2010 levels.
“Recent extreme heat waves, droughts and floods across the globe are a dire warning that much more needs to be done, and much more quickly, to change our current pathway.”
Do Americans put more stock in what they feel they know rather than actual facts? A New Mexico State University communication studies professor’s recently published study shows the influence of social media on public engagement turns the traditional belief about voter participation on its head. The study points to increased political participation by uninformed voters, considered the “dark side” of political participation. It finds uninformed voters can actively engage in politics thinking that they know enough about politics and current affairs. Sangwon Lee, assistant professor in N.M. State University’s communication studies department, is the lead author of a paper published in the September issue of the journal Human Communication Research titled “Rethinking the Virtuous Circle Hypothesis on Social Media: Subjective versus Objective Knowledge and Political Participation.”
“For a long time, scholars have posited that news consumption informs people about politics, which subsequently leads to political participation,” Lee said. “But, in this article, we found that such a ‘virtuous circle’ doesn’t hold anymore in the current social media environment. “Rather, news consumption via social media tends to create a ‘sense of being informed’ rather than actually being informed, which drives political participation. In other words, it is ‘an illusion of knowledge’ that drives political participation.”
Lee’s study drew on data from a national survey of more than 1,500 people conducted during the 2018 U.S. mid-term elections by the polling company Dynata. The company selected survey participants based on gender, age, education and income to closely mimic the U.S. general population. Questions included how often they used various social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Google +, YouTube, Instagram, Reddit and Linked-In to get their news.
They were also asked about their use traditional sources such as national and local newspapers, radio and television broadcasts to get their news information. Researchers gauged the subjects’ objective knowledge by asking a series of factual political questions, then subjects were asked how knowledgeable they think they are about politics. In addition, they were questioned about their extent of participation in political activities ranging from rallies, boycotts or fundraising events to attending public meetings or contacting public officials. “Existing scholarship has always treated political participation as a good thing and important for a functioning democracy,”
Lee said. “Political participation may not always be a good thing as evidenced by the January 6 insurrection. Our study implies that political action can also be driven by inaccurate information.” Social media algorithms also contribute to the echo chamber of social media that may reinforce currently held opinions, creating an impression that a person is well-informed. Another contributor to this feeling of being knowledgeable is the concept of “News Finds Me Perception,” in which people don’t bother to actively seek out other types of news information because they are already inundated with news from their social media feeds. People believe that they can stay informed through these kinds of exposure.