Claudia Sheinbaum

Mexico’s First Woman President and Climate Scientist

Mexico’s First Woman President and Climate Scientist

Claudia Sheinbaum

On June 2nd, 2024, Claudia Sheinbaum was elected as the first woman president and climate scientist in history, making it a significantly monumental stepping stone for Mexico and the rest of the world. With nearly 60% of the votes, Sheinbaum being the first ever woman president is a huge accomplishment for not only Mexico, but any other woman or girl hoping to achieve the same one day. 

According to La Nacion, at 61 years old, Claudia Sheinbaum “defines herself as a humanist, feminist, leftist, democrat and promotes the fight against climate change and the defense of renewable energies.” 

 

 

 

As a former climate scientist and mayor, she also has an extensive history in climate change advocacy and political reform. Sheinbaum’s election as president is not only defying deep-rooted gender stereotypes, but also establishing promising political action towards lessening global climate change, starting in Mexico.  

 

 

“We are going to expand access to the rights of the people of Mexico ; to education , health , housing , culture , we are going to continue building a true Welfare State” – Claudia Sheinbaum

 

 

 

 

 

First Woman President Significance

Claudia Sheinbaum’s presidency presents a world-changing mark in global history. She has already become the first example of a woman achieving the highest political position. Her election will forever be an inspiration and true example of woman-empowerment. 

According to Viri Rios, Sheinbaum’s role as president will not only be highly impactful in politics, but also quite dangerous. Unfortunately, Mexico is a country where nearly “90% of Mexicans harbor negative biases against women, and 58% hold such biases specifically against female politicians, tens of millions have voted for women.” Meaning, Sheinbaum’s role will potentially be more challenging than any other president in Mexico’s political history. Additionally, Rios discloses how women political leaders here are more prone to undergo more severe backlash compared to men. 

Alongside Sheinbaum, there are various other women leaders making differences in Mexico. For instance, the cities of Morelos, Veracriz, Guanajuato, and Mexico City, elected four other women as governors. 

 

 

 

 

After Sheinbaum’s election as president, political leaders and advocates around the world congratulated her success, highlighting her accomplishment as the first female president. Since her official election, she has been constantly reminded of her achievement and how her position will further influence women all around the world. 

 

 

“The feminist struggle to put women in power does not end with Sheinbaum’s victory. The most important challenge is translating gender equality into reality. Success won’t come easily” –Viri Rios

 

 

 

 

 

Family

As Nicole Acevedo, Arturo Conde and Albinson Linares state in an NBC News article, Claudia Sheinbaum’s “grandparents were Jews who immigrated to Mexico from Bulgaria,” making her the first Jewish president of Mexico as well. Her parents were both born in Mexico in the 1920s, and she was later born in Mexico city in 1962. Humberto Basillio notes that she is “the daughter of a biochemist and chemical engineer” demonstrating her parents to be well educated. Similarly, Sheinbaum followed her parent’s footsteps educationally. 

Her father was a well-educated chemical engineer and inspirational political activist. According to Sheinbaum, her father influenced her desire for politics and science. She writes in a tweet how she “inherited his passion for politics.”

 

 

 

Sheinbaum’s mother is also a notably successful and impactful woman in her life. As outlined in a tweet made by Sheinbaum, she “learned a love of science, to work with passion and honesty” from her mother. 

 

 

 

 

“The daughter of a biochemist and a chemical engineer, Sheinbaum Pardo pursued a similar path, earning her undergraduate degree in physics and a PhD in environmental engineering at UNAM” Humberto Basilio

 

 

Education

As outlined by Humberto Basillio, Claudia Sheinbaum earned “her undergraduate degree in physics and a PhD in environmental engineering at UNAM.” She also studied at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California from 1991-1994, where her academics consisted of learning about industrialized nations’ consumption, including Mexico. Jason Pohl reveals that she was also a “researcher at Berkeley Lab” in the 1990s, “where she studied energy use in Mexico’s transportation and building sectors”, influencing her political attitudes moving forward.

While studying at UNAM, Sheinbaum began associating herself more with politics. Basillo writes that she participated in various group protests, where she protested “the university’s plan to begin charging tuition.” As a result, Sheinbaum, along with many other participating students, politicians, and academics created a political party and movement in Mexico. This experience gained so much political attention in 2000, allowing López Obrador to become mayor of Mexico City. 

Political History

As disclosed by Humberto Basillo, once established in his role, López Obrador “appointed Sheinbaum Pardo as his environment secretary” while in office. Sheinbaum was quickly able to start her political career in this position. Throughout López Obrador’s career, she continued to stay relatively close to him. In 2018, he became president, and alongside him, Sheinbaum became Mexico City’s first female mayor.

India Bourke reports how as mayor from 2018-2023, Sheinbaum installed “the world’s latest solar project of its kind in the world.” This project was public transport reform that was achieved through promoting solar energy. 

Maxwell Radwin states that “Sheinbaum is the former head of Mexico city and and environmental scientist by trade”

 

 

“As mayor of Mexico City, she demonstrated the ability to distance herself from AMLO in areas that she deemed relevant. Unlike him, she wore a mask during the COVID-19 pandemic, spearheaded major clean energy projects, and avoided the militarization of state police.” –Vivi Rios

 

 

 

 

Environmental History

Sheinbaum also contributed as co-author to various writings, including the 2007 Nobel Prize winning report with the United Nations International Panel on Climate Change. According to India Bourke, the success of these reports was because of their “informed consensus about the connection between human activities and global warming”.

In college, Sheinbaum studied environmental engineering, specifically “emissions from buildings and the environmental impacts of Mexico City’s transport sector”. Her environmental history has debatably made her the most scientifically prepared climate premier in Mexico history. Compared to previous political premiers, she arguably has the most professional climate-science background of all time. 

In 2021, Sheinbaum executed a program addressing climate change in Mexico. According to Sheinbaum, the environment is “one of top priority topics as a scientist and head of government”. Her role in politics, as well as science, allows her to develop a deep passion for environmental issues in Mexico, and the rest of the world.

This program in particular won the 2021-2022 award from WWF, making it highly successful and efficient. The project being “already 80% advanced” according to Sheinbaum, makes it clear that she will continue to take on further climate action initiatives during her presidency. 

 

 

Throughout her career, she has always advocated for environmental justice through not only her tweets, but political activism. For example, she attends various environmental advocacy meetings with other political leaders and scientific experts around the world, planning environmental policies and implantations. 

In a tweet made in 2023, she revealed how she is part of an environmental group that was created in 2019. The group included many “microseism experts” alongside scientific experts. According to Sheinbaum, the group meets to “promote scientific research and dissemination for civil protection on microseisms in the Valley of Mexico.”

 

 

 

Sheinbaum also revealed how she met with political leaders, such as Joe Biden, in early 2023 to discuss climate action worldwide. Specifically, Sheinbaum writes how they “talked about climate change and the importance of reducing emissions that cause it.”

 

 

 

In 2019, Sheinbaum, alongside 40 worldwide institutions and 24 work groups, the ECOs Network was created as an environmental plan focusing on six major components. In a tweet made by Sheinbaum this year, she writes that “It is focused on six axes: Education; Health Sciences; Sustainable Development and Climate Change; Security and Risk Management; Technology and Innovation; Science and Society“

Sheinbaum continues to reveal herself as a leftist and environmentalist who is actively pursuing environmental justice through her career goals as a political leader. 

 

 

Climate Change Issue in Mexico

Mexico currently undergoes some of the most dangerous effects of climate change in the world. Development Bank of Latin America and the Caribbean reports how Mexico experiences increased vulnerability compared to other countries “due to its geography and socioeconomic conditions, which stresses the need to implement adaptation and mitigation policies through joint actions at the local, national, and international level to address these challenges”. The country’s average temperature continues to rise as the years go on, creating negative impacts on all biodiversity and communities. 

The rise in deforestation, for example, continues to lead to various negative impacts on indigenous communities, wildlife, and water levels. Deforestation allows for increased greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere, particularly CO2, which leads to greater average temperatures, growing health risks, unhealthy air quality, and death. Due to the country’s vast amount of forests and agriculture, it undergoes these challenges more easily.

Thelma Gómez Durán concludes in an article that “every year in Mexico, at least 47,770 hectares (118,042 acres) of forests and jungles are cleared to establish agricultural fields”, threatening the country’s climate. Land clearing for agriculture here is very common, making it the “second cause of deforestation in Mexico, after cattle ranching”.

India Bourke reveals that Mexico is also one of the biggest oil producing countries, specifically, the 11th largest in the world. Therefore, the country’s economy is heavily reliant on this production. Which makes it more difficult to cut back on and find safer alternatives. The large production of oil in Mexico leads to major oil pollution, including oil spills, which disrupt migratory pathways and create habitat loss. 

Dana Nuccitelli writes that Mexico experiences severe droughts, flooding, water insecurities, heat waves, and increased temperatures that put its populations at risk due to climate change. Mexico’s “power sector emissions have been rising, especially over the past two years as the government has prioritized fossil fuels and drought has reduced its hydroelectricity production”. This led the country’s clean electricity generation to fall to about 20% in 2023 and a 33% overall climate pollution rise at 2000 levels.

 

 

Mexican annual fossil fuel greenhouse gas emissions. Image Credit: Dana Nuccitelli with Data from Global Carbon Budget.

 

 

Ultimately, Mexico “has made little progress” toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions causing significant global warming and climate change. It is a “highly climate-vulnerable country with a very climate-concerned population”. The country’s political leadership has taken very few initiatives to address its crucial climate crisis. However, Claudia Sheinbaum could be the one to further emphasize this issue, despite the challenges. 

“If all countries were to follow Mexico’s approach, warming would exceed 4°C” — a catastrophic level of global warmingDana Nuccitelli 

Environmental Proposals as President

Previous political leaders in Mexico have failed to meet goals of lessening climate change. For example, Dana Nuccitelli revealed that Felipe Calderón, former Mexican president from 2006-2012, developed two goals to reduce climate pollution by 30% in 2020 and 50% by 2050. These goals have “slipped out of reach”, despite passing a General Law on Climate Change in 2012. However, his successor, Peña Nieto, passed a tax on carbon pollution, which opened up further opportunities to energy conservation investments.

Despite these political initiatives to lessen climate change, Mexico is still in a very vulnerable position, more so than most other countries on Earth. The country lacks effective climate regulations and has much room for improvement. As a climate activist and scientist, Claudia Sheinbaum now has a platform for change. 

As stated by India Bourke, Sheinbaum pledges to raise “renewable energy investments by $13.57 billion” targeting decarbonisation. Her investments could result in an “3.5% increase in jobs and 1.6% rise in GDP”, as estimated by a WRI analysis. Specifically, this plan would increase wind and solar power generation, allowing for new and improved hydroelectric plants. She announced this promise to the public as part of her presidential campaign. Quoting Reuters, the plan is proposed to undergo “new generation projects through 2030”, up to 2025. Sheinbaum emphasizes the need for quickly advancing new renewable energies as a priority.  

However, today Mexico is still very heavily reliant on fossil fuels, making it the 11th largest producer in the world. Therefore, many question how Sheinbaum will achieve this goal under her presidency. Her background in environmental studies and climate change presents a promising future for her plans. 

President Andres Manual, who is the current president of Mexico, has taken little or no initiatives regarding environmental regulations since his start in 2018. As reported by Reuters, he oppositely prioritizes “strengthening state oil company Pemex over renewables.”

Sheinbaum also plans to address inequality amongst many communities in Mexico. She initiates a National Water Plan in response. Currently in Mexico, six out of ten households lack access to affordable, accessible, and safe drinking water. The water regulations in Mexico present obstacles when tackling this issue. Meaning, this could be another significant challenge for Sheinbaum to overcome, as she plans to create change.

However, during Sheinbaum’s campaign, she claims her plans for the water crisis “will reform Mexico’s water law to improve regulations on concessions and the transfer of titles, as well as modernize irrigation in the agricultural sector”. Sheinbaum also addressed the issue of deforestation and agriculture threats in Mexico. In her campaign, she “pledged to protect forests, invest in reforesting, and clean rivers”

 

 

“I believe in science” -Claudia Sheinbaum via Jason Pohl

 

 

 

 

A Bright Future for Mexico

Overall, Claudia Sheinbaum’s presidency will definitely be the start of an environmentally friendly journey in Mexico. Her education and experience in environmental awareness and climate-focused projects, well equip her to be a political environmental scientist and president. With Mexico’s current severe environmental threats, her presidency will present a bright future for the county moving forward. Sheinbaum has an extensive educational and political background, contributing to her success today. 

Not only is she the first climate-scientist president, but also the first woman president, breaking stereotypical barriers that were never achieved until now. Her election alone has already inspired so many women and scientists today, promising a brighter future. 

 

 

 


Bailey Rodriguez | Environmental Correspondent

Hello, I am Bailey Rodriguez, I am an undergraduate studying Geography and Public Affairs at the University of California, Los Angeles. Through my education, I have accrued meaningful knowledge and cultivated a sincere interest in the realms of human, urban, cultural, and environmental geography, providing me with a solid understanding of the interconnectedness between human societies, nature, and the wellbeing of our planet. Throughout my life, I have embraced my passion for human rights, minority representation, and the promotion of equality, equity, inclusivity, and justice. I will leverage my devotion to these values and goals into my work as an intern. I am extremely excited to serve as an Environmental Correspondent for Latina Republic. As a passionate advocate for social justice and environmental causes, I am particularly interested in exploring the complex connection between environmental and human rights, including deforestation, climate change, and wildlife conservation in Latin America. I believe that addressing deforestation, particularly in the Amazon rainforest, is crucial for raising awareness about its ongoing impact on climate change and the livelihoods of communities and wildlife dependent on it. My intention is to conduct extensive research on how climate change significantly affects Latin American communities and why urgent action is needed. I plan on hearing the perspectives of those living in Latin America, especially those directly affected by the Amazon rainforest. Additionally, I plan to advocate and research for political actions aimed at ending deforestation and lessening climate change in Latin America. My goal is to raise awareness about these pressing issues and to explore sustainable and effective solutions through collaboration and community engagement.