Albuquerque, NM –Every citizen in New Mexico lives in a county affected recently by weather-related disasters, including wildfires, according to an interactive, online map released today that crunches data from the federal government. Scientists say global warming is already exacerbating some extreme weather events and their impacts.
“From drought to wildfires and floods, dangerous weather is already hitting close to home,” said Sanders Moore, director with Environment New Mexico. “And without action to stop climate change, scientists say these extremes—and their impact on New Mexicans—will only get worse.”
Environment New Mexico researchers created the online map, Hitting Close to Home, which includes personal stories from New Mexicans affected by extreme weather.
Scientists predict unchecked global warming will increase the severity or the frequency of many extreme weather events. The potential for drought -- like that which has affected the state for the last few years -- will increase. Currently, 44 percent of New Mexico is in moderate drought.
In addition to statistics for recent weather-related disasters, the map includes case studies and personal stories from Americans impacted by extreme weather events across the country, including New Mexicans.
"In recent years, smoke from nearby wildfires has brought many patients to my clinic with asthma attacks and allergy symptoms. Children, elders, and patients with chronic lung diseases are particularly at risk,” said Val Wangler, M.D. and chief of staff of Zuni Medical Center. “As the warming and drought conditions worsen, the projected increase in wildfires means more and more New Mexicans will find themselves in our ERs struggling to breathe after exposure to wildfire smoke in the air."
The map reveals that nationwide, more than 57 million Americans live in counties that were affected by more than five weather disasters over the last five years, while counties housing 97 percent of the population experienced declared disasters at least once.
The analysis comes in the wake of the Supreme Court’s stay of the Clean Power Plan, the first-ever limits on carbon pollution from power plants that also incentivize the development of wind, solar, and other forms of clean energy.
“Ultimately, we’re confident that the Clean Power Plan will survive polluter attacks in the courts,” said Moore. “But in the mean time, states should be moving forward with clean energy solutions – for the sake our climate, our air, and our health.”
Since the pre-industrial era, average global temperature has increased by nearly a degree Celsius. In December, nearly 200 nations reached a global accord to limit warming to no more than another degree – a benchmark scientists say is critical to avert even more severe and frequent weather disasters. The Paris Climate Agreement was signed by 175 countries last Friday.
“To meet our commitment in Paris and avoid the most dangerous climate impacts,” concluded Moore, “ultimately we need to transition to 100 percent clean, renewable energy.”