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The Climate Crisis and our Health -- Why Action Matters Now in New Mexico

Full slides for the webinar are available at:

Full video of the webinar is here:

Included below is a text transcript of the slides from the webinar presenters:

Impacts of Climate Change across New Mexico

Dave DuBois

New Mexico State Climatologist


There’s no doubt that we’re warming

Temperature trend per decade in summer (JJA) since 1970 by climate division

Data source:


Recent Observations of Change

Temperatures of last decade were warmest of this century

Morning lows getting warmer on top of urban heat island (not all locations)

Longer growing season, more allergens

Freezing level higher in elevation

Dust storms not only affecting human health but slowly changing snowmelt timing


Climate Change in the West

Warmer – sure bet (happening)

Hotter/longer heatwaves – sure bet (happening)

Less snow – excellent odds (happening)

Drier soils – excellent odds (happening)

Less late winter snow/rain – good odds (happening)

Less water in rivers – good odds (happening)

More frequent/severe drought – good odds

Hotter drought – excellent odds (happening)


Water Resources

Declines in snowpack

Less water available for agricultural users

More rain than snow during winter

Earlier snowmelt

Lower soil moisture in the summer


Impacts to Agriculture

Higher evapotranspiration, stress on plants, higher water needs

Lack of forage during hotter and drier droughts

Forage quality could change negatively

Costs of hauling water and supplemental feed

Higher water requirements for animals during heat waves

Reliability of existing water sources threatened


Health Concerns with Changing Climate

Heat waves – increased probabilities, higher overnight temperatures

Allergens – earlier & longer frost-free season, longer allergy season

Wildfires – frequency and size to increase; fine particulates or smoke to increase, impacts large areas & can be transported long distances

Drought – increases concentrations of pathogens, impedes hygiene

Drinking water – impacting surface water storage


Health Effects of Air Pollutants in Las Cruces

Using data from Memorial Medical Center 2007-2010 linking air pollutants in Las Cruces with emergency room visits (Rodopoulou et al. 2014)

12.4% increase in cardiovascular ER visits for PM10 for all adults in the warm season (April-September)

5.2% increase in respiratory ER visits for PM2.5 excluding high wind days


Heat-related Illnesses

Mild symptoms to life-threatening conditions

Heat cramps

Heat exhaustion

Heat stroke


Most frequent weather-related cause of injury and death in the United States

Expected to increase, as extreme heat events are expected to become more common and more severe


US Electricity Generation


Electrical Generation in US


Our direction forward

Opportunities for new solar plants both PV and concentrating solar

Expand wind energy sector

Expand residential, commercial and governmental rooftop solar

Also need to utilize geothermal resources

Electrify transportation powered by renewable energy

Develop comprehensive state-wide resilience and adaptation plans


Dr. Dave DuBois

State Climatologist
New Mexico State University


Environmental Justice & Public Health: 
The View from the Navajo Nation

Adella Begaye – Diné CARE


Education and nursing

Heath Educator, BSN and Public Health, Public Health Administrator

Tribal health educator, pediatric nursing, OPD supervisor-infection control, specialty nursing – ICN and safety, PHN supervisor/director, 30 years in Commission Corps


COVID-19 shines light on air quality

Air pollution exacerbates lung and heart disease.

CDC warns underlying health conditions increase risk of COVID-19 complications, adverse outcomes.

We must protect our health and climate in this time of crisis.


Native Americans disproportionately impacted by oil and gas pollution

Navajo leaders and community members call on state and federal govt to limit oil and gas pollution, clean up our air.

Ozone pollution from methane emissions threatens all New Mexicans, but disproportionately impacts children, Native Americans and those living in poor, rural communities.

More than half of all Native Americans in San Juan County – about 24,600 people – live within a mile of a wellsite.


Health impact assessment

Health impact assessment conducted in Counselor, Torreon and Ojo Chapters of Navajo Nation.

Possible childhood and birth impacts due to exposure to well emissions.

80% of Counselor residents reported exposure to VOCs.

Long-term VOC impacts include liver, kidney and nervous system damage.


Climate change threatens Navajo communities, demands action

Climate change means less water and more heat waves, is a potential public health crisis.

30% of Navajo residents lack municipal water, 40% lack electricity.

Must stop emissions at the source to cut pollution, protect health.

Strong methane rule in NM is critical for climate and environmental justice.


Public Action for Climate and Our Health in New Mexico

Barbara Webber Executive Director


NM’s air quality is deteriorating!

The America Lung Association (ALA)’s recent report gave Eddy, Lea and San Juan counties failing grades for ozone pollution and high ozone days.

Nearby counties did not fare much better.

The 5 NM counties home to  97% of the state’s oil and gas are all at risk for violating the federal clean air standards.




Ozone pollution poses a serious health threat, especially for children, elders, and rural communities of color.

Oil and gas is responsible for 300,000 metrics tons of the compounds that turn into ozone smog every year.

An extensive body of scientific research, including by the US Environmental Protection Agency demonstrates a causal or likely causal relationship between ozone exposure and respiratory distress, heart problems, premature death, strokes and neurological effects. 

Especially troubling given our current public health crisis and the CDC findings of the CDC that those with underlying respiratory and heart conditions are at great risk for worse outcomes of COVID-19

Data sources:


In NM, 138,399 people live within ½ mile of 55,227 oil & gas facilities as do 99 schools and child care centers.


Protecting our children’s health.

Asthma is now the most common non communicable disease in children in the US.  In NM our asthma rate is higher than the national rate

The highest ER visits and admissions due to asthma are in the Southeastern part of NM. 


Studies have found that living close to oil & gas facilities:

Increases risk of congenital birth defects by 40 – 70%

Increases low weight and pre-term babies 40% & 20%

Increases life time risk of cancer by 8 times.



Oil and Gas Operations Leak, Vent and Flare methane into the air.

Methane is the principal component of natural gas.

Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas responsible for more than a 25% of climate change.


NM is home to some of worst methane pollution in the US.

Methane escapes from wells in the Permian Basin at a rate 3 times higher than the national average.



New Mexico and Methane

NM leaks more than than 1 million metric ton of methane into the air every year – the equivalent of the carbon produced by 22 coal fired power plants

A massive methane hotspot was discovered over the San Juan Basin by satellite, equivalent to the size of the state of Rhode Island



Volatile organic compounds are gases released alongside methane as the key ingredient of smog or ozone

Benzene is of these gases which is a known carcinogen as well as others that cause serious neurological disorders.

Exposure of even 1 hour can cause cardiac arrythmias.



Adding insult to injury, the Trump administration has accelerated its campaign against environmental and health regulation.

Just this month, the EPA gutted federal methane regulations.

This follows three years of rolling back to environmental regulations.


The Good News: oil and gas developers have solutions at their disposal:

Infrared cameras to find and fix leaks

Companies can install state of the art technologies that emit little or no air emissions

Companies can develop gas capture plans before development so air and methane emissions are not an afterthought


Gov. Lujan Grisham: Climate change a core issue of her administration

As Gov. Lujan Grisham outlined in her 2019 Executive Order on Addressing Climate Change and Energy Waste Prevention, 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.

The state is committed to a coordinated, interagency strategy to support the 2015 Paris Agreement goals and achieve a statewide reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of at least 45 percent by 2030 as compared to 2005 levels.


NM Air Pollution and Methane Draft Rules

While we appreciate the hard work that NMED and EMNRD have done to date, the agencies must make critical changes to close loopholes and eliminate exemptions in their draft air pollution and methane rules.

Email comments to:

NMED draft rule

NMED Air Quality Bureau:


EMNRD draft rule

Oil Conservation Division:


Call to Action: what can you do???


Let candidates for office and your local, state and federal representatives know that combatting climate change is a critical issue for you and your family.

Follow the state process of regulating methane. Public Comment needed by Sept 16.

Call for comprehensive strategies to set state carbon limits and require significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions in ALL SECTORS in NM.

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