New Mexico Could Face Significant Temperature Increases Over the Next 100 Years
Analysis by The Nature Conservancy shows climate change threatens New Mexico’s Agriculture and Tourism Industries
SANTA FE, NM | August 31, 2009
New Mexico could heat up by more than 8 degrees by the end of the century – significantly impacting the state’s agriculture and tourism industries and increasing the loss of wildlife habitat, according to a new analysis by The Nature Conservancy.
New Mexico is already, on average, 1.7 degrees warmer than it was 30 years ago. As a result, the state is now experiencing peak spring runoff 7 days earlier than the long-term average. Snow melting sooner in the spring is just one of many effects New Mexicans will notice as temperatures continue to increase.
“We can now see that climate change is already hitting us here in New Mexico, in our own back yards,” said Terry Sullivan, director of the Conservancy in New Mexico. “If we do not act immediately, our children and grandchildren will live in a very different world than we do today.”
While much is still unknown about how temperature increases will affect New Mexico, studies from the Conservancy show that continued increasing temperatures will create substantial disruption to New Mexico’s agriculture and recreation industries.
Economic analyses published recently by the University of Oregon and New Mexico State University, project:
- $288 million in lost revenue for the state’s recreation-dependent businesses. As snow pack is lost, trout fishing disappears, and forests are closed due to wildfire.
- $488 million in increased costs to fight wildfires and repair homes after weather conditions where fires burn out of control.
- Direct economic losses of up to $100 million to the state’s agricultural sector, with an additional $200 million in indirect losses.
In addition, New Mexico’s wildlife will suffer from a rapidly changing climate. Signature species, such as Goat Peak pika, Rio Grande cutthroat trout, and Jemez Mountains salamander, may decline as their habitats shrink with rising temperatures.
The Conservancy’s climate analysis looked at three scenarios based on low, medium and high rates of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere over the next 100 years. Under the highest emission scenario, which assumes carbon dioxide levels will continue to grow, New Mexico’s average annual temperature would spike by 8.6 degrees.
The lowest emission scenario provides some hope by projecting a temperature increase of 6 degrees by 2100. This rise in mean annual temperature, while still large, means that the worst impacts can still be avoided if the amount of carbon dioxide pumped into the atmosphere is reduced. The United States Congress is currently working to address this issue and the Senate is scheduled to vote on clean energy and climate legislation this fall.
“These temperature predictions clearly demonstrate the need for Congress to enact legislation that lowers our emissions immediately. We still have time, but we need to act now,” said Terry Sullivan.
In the meantime, action can be taken on the ground now to combat the impacts of climate change and protect New Mexico’s communities and natural resources. The Conservancy is helping people and wildlife in New Mexico become more resilient (or adapt) to the changing climate by:
- Assessing the vulnerability of New Mexico’s fish, wildlife and habitats to climate change.
- Determining which watersheds are at highest risk because of the significance of diminished snowpack and stream flow.
- Developing and testing strategies for forest and watershed management to help people and wildlife adapt to climate change with a pilot project in the Jemez Mountains.
Learn more about the vulnerability of wildlife, fish and habitats to climate change in New Mexico, and how the Conservancy is working with other conservation organizations to help species adapt to changing temperatures and precipitation.
See projections of temperature and precipitation changes for New Mexico with a new web tool that, for the first time ever, allows people to use an interactive map to explore past and projected climate change data on their computers. With Climate Wizard, users can zoom in on New Mexico to quickly see how temperatures and precipitation may change by month, season or year under different emission scenarios. The Climate Wizard was developed by The Nature Conservancy, the University of Washington and the University of Southern Mississippi.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.