new Mexico


Yes, In Our Backyard

After more than a decade with a nuclear waste dump next door, the sky has not fallen on Carlsbad

Okay, so Yucca Mountain hasn’t worked out so well. In fact, the current betting is that the planned Nevada repository for nuclear waste will never open its doors. No matter. New Mexico beckons.

A transport container for nuclear waste, outside the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico.

Few Americans seem to realize that the world’s only functioning geologic repository for nuclear waste of any kind is already open for business in the southeastern corner of New Mexico. In fact, the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant is well beyond the “pilot” phase. It’s been taking in truckloads of the stuff since 1999, without mishap, it’s success no doubt a factor in its anonymity.

An average of 30 truckloads a week from all corners of the US, roll into what is essentially a glorified salt mine, licensed by the federal government to accept low-level “transuranic” waste from defense-related facilities only. Continue reading

Another One Bites the Dust?

California’s cap-and-trade partners are dropping like flies.

It’s not official yet, but it’s looking like what was once envisioned as a regional carbon trading program involving seven US states and four Canadian provinces, will now involve just one US state – California – and just three provinces: Quebec, British Columbia, and Ontario.

One by one, members of the Western Climate Initiative have postponed their involvement or dropped out altogether, as Arizona did last February when Gov. Jan Brewer issued an executive order backing out of the carbon trading program.

And today, an online publisher quotes a key official in California’s carbon trading program, that the state stands to lose its last remaining US partner, New Mexico. As Colin Sullivan of E&E reported:

Kevin Kennedy, assistant executive officer in charge of the Office of Climate Change at the California Air Resources Board, told lawyers during a forum sponsored by Law Seminars International that the election results likely mean New Mexico will not participate in the fledgling WCI, at least at the outset of the market starting Jan. 1, 2012.

“The change in administration probably takes New Mexico out of the situation,” Kennedy said.

(Subscription required for full article)

Last week New Mexico’s new governor, Susana Martinez, announced that she was removing all members of the state’s Environmental Improvement Board, “because of what she said was its ‘anti-business’ policies.”  Last year, the EIB approved measures for the state to limit emissions and join the WCI’s cap-and-trade program.

Climate News Roundup

Geoengineering: Use it or Lose it?

Just as delegates from 193 nations agreed to a voluntary moratorium on geoengineering research last week at the international Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Nagoya, Japan, the US House Science and Technology Committee issued a report outlining how federal geoengineering research could be pursued in the United States. The international agreement to ban the research does not apply to the US, which has not ratified the CBD. (More from The Washington Post and Climate Central.) Continue reading

The Cost of Ignoring Climate Change

sunheat_smMuch of the debate over addressing climate change hinges on the cost of proposed mitigation efforts.  Some say we can’t afford the extraordinary measures required to cut greenhouses gases, particularly in the current economic train wreck.  What gets less attention is the cost of doing nothing.

This has been a controversial idea since the Stern Review called attention to the issue in 2006. That report concluded that unless one percent of global GDP was diverted to mitigate the worst effects of climate change, the world could lose up to 5% of  global GDP each year and the total damage could claim as much as 20%.

A set of new reports out of the University of Oregon inserts fresh numbers into the debate. According to researchers, three western states are each likely to lose more than $3 billion a year in climate change-related costs by 2020, if nothing is done to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  By 2080, the projected annual costs range from $9-to-$18 billion for each state.

The reports, which focus on Washington, Oregon, and New Mexico, assume a business-as-usual scenario where both carbon emissions and temperature continue to rise at rates similar to those seen in recent years. Under these conditions, these states (and California, according to the prevalent research) can expect more severe droughts and floods, less snowfall,  more wildfires and habitat loss, and a higher incidence of climate-associated health problems and deaths.

In New Mexico, the study’s authors expect summer temperatures to climb 12.6 degrees above current averages by 2080,  spiking air-conditioning costs, health-care complications, and the state’s death rate.  By 2020, annual climate-related health care costs in New Mexico alone are expected to top $1.3 billion.

California’s temperatures, under business-as-usual scenarios, are widely expected rise between six and ten degrees by the end of century.  Even in a relatively cool state like Washington, health care impacts would make up $421 million, or 32%, of total annual climate-related costs, under this pr0jection.

The study attributed the largest costs (more than $1 billion annually in each state) to inefficient consumption of energy, a projection that might not pan out, given the Obama Adminstration’s focus on green technology and clean energy efforts.

Other costs cited by the study include reduced salmon populations and food production, lost recreational opportunities (sell your snowboard now), and more intense and frequent wildfires and storms.