A Climate Scientist Is Voted President of an Oil Country. Now What?

Mexico is the world’s 11th-largest oil producer. It has been gripped by a deadly heat wave. Now, it’s elected as its president a woman with a rare pedigree: a left-of-center climate scientist with a doctorate in environmental engineering named Claudia Sheinbaum.

Ms. Sheinbaum is no stranger to politics nor to environmental crises. She was mayor of Mexico City, a vibrant metropolitan area of 23 million that faces a dire water crisis. She helped write the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports, the sweeping United Nations documents that have warned the world about the hazards of burning fossil fuels.

Ms. Sheinbaum will have to balance numerous, sometimes contradictory, tests as she takes office. Federal budgets are tight. Energy demands are rising. Mexico’s national oil company is heavily indebted. She’ll face the challenges of poverty, migration, organized crime and relations with the next president of the United States.

It would be folly to predict what she will do, but it’s worth looking at what she has said and done on energy and environmental issues so far in her career.

First, her record.

As mayor of Mexico City, she began electrifying the city’s public bus fleet. She set up a huge rooftop solar array on the city’s main wholesale market. She expanded bike lanes, making permanent several kilometers of pandemic-era pop-up paths.

She has been criticized by environmentalists for backing one of the country’s most controversial infrastructure projects, the 1,500-kilometer so-called Maya Train corridor, which cuts across forests and archaeological sites to connect tourist sites like Cancún to rural areas on the Yucatán Peninsula.

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