Bingaman hears New Mexico climate change testimony

Aug 17, 2012

New Mexico Senator Jeff Bingaman, D, was in Santa Fe today, listening to testimony about the impacts of climate change. During a field hearing of the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, the senator heard what’s happening on the ground in New Mexico.

In his testimony, Governor Walter Dasheno of Santa Clara Pueblo pointed out that climate change contributed to last year’s Las Conchas fire. That fire burned more than 150,000 acres in the Jemez Mountains.

But Gov. Dasheno is even more worried about the future. Warming, he said, is causing native tree species to decline. Rapid climate change is also affecting the forest's ability to regenerate. If severe wildfires continue, he fears that the forest in Santa Clara Canyon will no thrive.

Nathan McDowell, a scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory testified about the impact drought is already having on forests in New Mexico--and across the globe. These dieoffs are bad news for local ecosystems and communities, but can also accelerate climate change on global scale.

Oceans and forests absorb about half of the carbon emitted by humans. As forests die off, they absorb less carbon.

When Sen. Bingaman asked about solutions, Craig Allen with the U.S. Geological Service pointed to forest restoration.

What humans can do in the short run, he said, is care for forests--increase their resilience and their resistance to growing climate stresses. These stresses can include drought, a rise in temperatures, and insect infestations.

Wrapping up the hearing, the senator emphasized the seriousness of the issue with an attempt at humor. “I’d like to end this hearing on a high note,” he said, “but I can’t think of how to do that.”

To listen to an archived webcast of the hearing and read the testimony of witnesses, visit: