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By Tom McDonald
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Opinion: Climate plans necessary in crisis

 

Last updated 4/20/2021 at 4:56pm



This year, Earth Day might actually mean something.

For the previous four years, we had a president who denied the climate emergency facing us, but now we have a leader who not only believes the science but is treating the looming catastrophe as the existential crisis it is.

President Biden rejoined the Paris climate agreement in his first day in office, and he recently unveiled a $2 trillion infrastructure plan that includes a massive shift from fossil fuels to clean energy sources like solar and wind.

And just last week, climate envoy John Kerry met with his Chinese counterpart and hammered out a general agreement to work together to mitigate the reality of climate change. Their joint announcement came just ahead of a virtual climate summit that Biden is hosting for much of the world’s leadership.

Leaders from 40 different nations, including Chinese President Xi Jinping, have been invited to attend the summit. According to The Associated Press, it’s scheduled for two days, beginning on Earth Day (April 22), and expectations are that the U.S. and other wealthy countries will be announcing ambitious new plans to cut carbon emissions and help less wealthy nations financially so they might meet carbon-reduction targets sooner rather than later.

For the U.S., the conversion to clean energy is already underway. A lot of American businesses, as well as many cities and states, were investing in clean and renewable energy sources even as then-President Trump was calling it all a hoax. Even red-state, oil-rich Texas has invested in a cleaner future by harnessing its winds — the Lone Star State is the largest producer of wind energy in the nation.

Here in New Mexico, wind farms and solar arrays were being developed under our previous Republican governor, Susana Martinez, despite her base being strongest in the oil-and-gas lands of southeastern New Mexico. But wind and solar development really took off after Michelle Lujan Grisham became governor. In her first year in office, she and her Democratic Party allies in the state Legislature passed into law the Energy Transition Act of 2019, which requires that the state move to 50% renewable energy by 2030, 80% by 2040, and be 100% carbon-free by 2045.

Wind farm construction is a booming business now, and while the efficiencies built into wind and solar energy capture won’t generate the number of jobs that oil-and-gas extraction has been doing in the Permian and San Juan basins, they won’t be on a boom-and-bust cycle either, so the revenues that wind and solar generates for the state will at least be more stable in the long run.

Still, as a state that depends so heavily on oil and gas — about a third of New Mexico’s tax revenues comes from the extraction industry — we are walking a precarious line. Biden’s infrastructure investment plan could help us offset the costs of this transition, but there will still be challenges for the state and its long-term economy.

Nevertheless, it has to be done if this world is going to remain habitable, not just to the 2 million people who live in New Mexico, but for the 7.7 billion people who live on Earth.

Tom McDonald is editor of the New Mexico Community News Exchange. Contact him at:

[email protected]

 
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