We are lucky to call New Mexico home. In the fall, you might find us elk hunting in the Gila National Forest; spring, hiking in the Sandia Mountains; and summer, fishing in the Pecos Mountains. For an outdoors-loving family, New Mexico is hard to beat.
But the New Mexico our family and many others know and love is at risk due to climate change. While scientists say the greatest impacts are yet to come, we and a growing number of New Mexico families are already seeing the impacts of climate change in the form of increasingly severe drought and wildfires and the resulting stress on fish and wildlife. We know there is a limited window of time to address this challenge for our family and the generations that come after us.
We are proud to live in a state that is now leading the nation with smart, proactive solutions to address climate change. The Energy Transition Act, recently signed into law by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, will help our state move away from expensive fossil fuels toward cleaner and more affordable renewable energy. New Mexico is rich in wind and solar resources, and the Energy Transition Act will help us to take advantage of these resources to power our homes, businesses and schools. It will also bring jobs and economic growth to our state. Just last week, an Arizona electricity company announced it is building a major wind farm in southeastern New Mexico. This will be Tucson Electric Power’s largest renewable-energy project, and construction should begin later this year.
The Energy Transition Act also ensures that when PNM retires a major source of carbon pollution in our state – the San Juan Generating Station – the workers and community in Farmington will get resources for job re-training and economic development. Shutting down this coal plant in 2022 will reduce carbon pollution by the same amount as taking more than 1.2 million passenger cars off the road for one year. Job re-training and economic assistance will help the people of the Four Corners region diversify their economy, adding jobs in clean energy, outdoor recreation and other opportunities. This kind of leadership shows that our state can be at the forefront in solving some of our nation’s toughest problems while empowering our fellow New Mexicans.
As a parent, I believe it is unconscionable to make excuses and leave this problem for the next generation to solve. And as young people, we want to be able to live in a New Mexico that still has healthy streams and forests.
Transitioning our state away from fossil fuels is critical to avoiding the worst effects of climate change and protecting our way of life in New Mexico. A new tool from the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science shows that if carbon emissions remain at current high levels, within my daughters’ lifetimes the climate in Albuquerque will feel more like Socorro, Texas, just south of El Paso – which is roughly 10 degrees warmer and 32 percent drier in winter.
It is good to see New Mexico in a proactive leadership role, tackling one of the biggest problems – maybe the biggest problem – ahead for the next generation. Past generations have ensured we can enjoy an incredible wealth of outdoor opportunities and experiences. We want the next generation to experience elk herds in the Gila and trout in the Pecos. The Energy Transition Act, championed by Sen. Jacob Candelaria, Sen. Mimi Stewart and Rep. Nathan Small, will help us to achieve that.
New Mexicans are ready to do our part to use more clean energy and address climate change head-on. The rest of the country should follow our lead.
Jeremy Vesbach is the Lands Program Director for Western Resource Advocates and has spent his professional career working to protect Western lands. Josie is in ninth grade and Caitlin is in sixth grade.