Study: NM Needs New Policies to Protect Children from Extreme Heat
Wednesday, August 2, 2023
New Mexico must do more to protect children and other vulnerable residents from extreme heat, according to a new report from the advocacy organization Voices for Children.
Children breathe in more air and drink more water for their body weight than adults do, resulting in higher exposure levels, compounded when children spend more time outdoors. And when temperatures soar to 90 degrees and above, children can experience dehydration, exhaustion, cramps and irritability.
Divya Shiv, research policy analyst for New Mexico Voices for Children and the report's author, said in the state, an average of 20 days each year are classified as extremely or dangerously hot; a number expected to double by 2050. She observed it is staggering to take in.
"Especially considering that we are currently in a period of extreme heat," Shiv pointed out. "And learning about the effects of extreme heat on children who typically spend more time outdoors than adults and whose bodies struggle to regulate internal temperatures."
The report looked at the impacts of extreme heat, drought and flooding, wildfires, and air quality and recommends policies the state can adopt, to help protect the climate from more devastation. Shiv stressed the state needs to better prepare people for what is coming, especially those living in high-risk areas.
In addition to children, the report found seniors and Native Americans are more likely to be harmed by climate change as are New Mexicans who live near industrial areas, highways and oil and gas extraction facilities. However, the state's recent budget windfalls are driven by oil and gas development, activities which can accelerate climate change.
Shiv acknowledged it is a serious dilemma for lawmakers who need to pass legislation to help local communities.
"We are tying our budget to oil and gas while also trying to reduce the effects of oil and gas," Shiv noted. "We believe very strongly that the state should diversify its revenue stream away from the over-reliance on oil and gas."
The report recommended tougher rules to reduce methane leaking, venting and flaring at oil and gas sites. New Mexico has already committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions trapping heat by at least 45% before 2030, but the state is not currently on track to meet its goal.
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