Vulnerable to climate change, New Mexicans understand its risks

Most New Mexicans know climate change is happening and understand it is human-caused. According to recently-released data, New Mexicans are also more likely than people in about half the country to talk not just about the weather, but climate. This week, The New York Times published six maps showing how adult Americans think about climate change and regulations on carbon emissions. The maps were based on data from researchers at Yale University. According to their nationwide survey, 70 percent of Americans think global warming is happening. More than half understand it is human-caused and 71 percent say they trust climate scientists. In their 2016 survey, the Yale researchers drilled down to the local level, allowing a glimpse into how both urban and rural New Mexicans think about climate change and carbon regulations. While more than half of New Mexicans say global warming is happening, and more than 44 percent know that it’s human-caused, opinions vary widely between counties. In San Juan County, only 58 percent say global warming is happening, whereas in Taos County, that number hits 79 percent. Again, in San Juan County, only 44 percent say it’s human-caused, while 63 percent say the same in Rio Arriba and San Miguel counties. When it comes to lightly-populated counties, it’s important to keep in mind the small sample sizes, said John Fleck, director of the University of New Mexico Water Resources Program. But, he said, it’s striking to see how many people across the country understand global warming is a problem. “It runs counter to this narrative that there’s a red-blue divide on this,” he said. “There is a little bit, I guess, but people in general think global warming is a problem and we ought to do something about it.” Fleck also noted that New Mexicans and other southwesterners are more concerned about climate change than people in many other parts of the country. “You’ve got to think that it has something to do with the tenuousness of our water supply in the rural parts of the arid West,” he said. He was also surprised that even in many conservative, coal-rich areas of the country, including Wyoming and West Virginia, people support restrictions on coal and carbon dioxide. Nationally, 75 percent of adults support regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant. That number is slightly lower here in New Mexico, at 74 percent statewide — ranging from 64 percent in San Juan County to 80 percent in Santa Fe County. Among polled Americans, 69 percent favor strict carbon emissions on existing coal-fired power plants. In San Juan County, where power plants provide jobs, only 45 percent support those limits….

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