In response to President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement, Governor Cuomo issued an Executive Order reaffirming the state policy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by forty percent by 2030, and eighty percent by 2050 from 1990 levels, across all emitting activities of the New York economy. I believe it is appropriate to ask how much is this plan to mitigate climate change going to cost and how much will the plan actually reduce global warming. This post sum estimates how much global warming would be prevented by the proposed reductions.
The Executive Order states that “New York has already committed to aggressive investments and initiatives to turn the State Energy Plan goals into action through its Clean Energy Standard (CES) program, the $5 Billion Clean Energy Fund (CEF), the $1 Billion NY-Sun solar program, the nation’s largest Green Bank, and unprecedented reforms to make the electricity grid more resilient, reliable, and affordable.” In order to make my analysis manageable I am breaking it up into three posts. The first post addressed costs of each the first four components. The second post estimated costs of for the “unprecedented reforms” comment which refers to the Reforming the Energy Vision component.
Disclaimer: I am writing this series of posts on New York State energy policy because I am concerned that this whole thing is going to end as an expensive boondoggle and drive electricity prices in particular and energy prices in general significantly higher. Before retirement from the electric generating industry, I was actively analyzing energy and air quality regulations that could affect company operations. The opinions expressed in this post do not reflect the position of any of my previous employers or any other company I have been associated with, these comments are mine alone.
How Much Will REV Affect Global Warming
In the absence of any official quantitative estimate of the impact on global warming from REV or any other New York State initiative related to climate change I did my own calculation. I simply adapted data for this emission reduction from the calculations in Analysis of US and State-By-State Carbon Dioxide Emissions and Potential “Savings” In Future Global Temperature and Global Sea Level Rise. This analysis of U.S. and state by state carbon dioxide 2010 emissions relative to global emissions quantifies the relative numbers and the potential “savings” in future global temperature and global sea level rise. All I did in my calculation was to pro-rate the United States impacts by the ratio of New York emissions divided by United States emissions to determine the effects of a complete cessation of all CO2 emissions in New York State as well as the REV plan for the 167.1 million metric ton reduction.
The first step is to quantify NY emissions. In 2010 the NY total was 172.8 million metric tons. According to the Energy Information Administration total New York carbon dioxide emissions in 1990 were 208.9 million metric tons so the reduction to the REV goal of 80% is 167.1 million metric tons. The New York impacts were calculated by the ratio of the NY emissions reductions to the US reductions in the report. For example, the NY % of global total emissions equals the % of US global total (17.88%) times the 2010 NY emissions (172.8) divided by the US emissions (5631.3)
These calculations show current growth rate in CO2 emissions from other countries of the world will quickly subsume New York total emissions much less any reductions in New York CO2 emissions. According to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) and based on trends in CO2 emissions growth over the past decade, global growth will completely replace an elimination of all 2010 CO2 emissions from New York in 79 days. For the emissions reductions proposed in REV, global growth will completely replace the expected reductions in 76 days. Furthermore, using assumptions based on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Assessment Reports we can estimate the actual impact to global warming for REV. The ultimate impact of the REV 80% reduction of 167.1 million metric tons on projected global temperature rise would be a reduction, or a “savings,” of approximately 0.0025°C by the year 2050 and 0.0051°C by the year 2100.
These small numbers have to be put in context. First consider temperature measuring guidance. The National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration’s Requirements and Standards for NWS Climate Observations states that: “The observer will round the entered data to whole units Fahrenheit”. The nearest whole degree Fahrenheit (0.55°C) is one hundred times greater than the projected change in temperature.
Although this change is too small to measure I am sure some will argue that there will nonetheless be some effect on the purported impacts. However, if these numbers are put into perspective of temperatures we routinely feel then that argument seems hollow. For example, in Syracuse NY the record high temperature is 102°F and the record low temperature is -26°F so the difference is 128 °F or 71.1°C which is nearly 14,000 times greater than the predicted change in temperature in 2100. The annual seasonal difference ranges from the highest daily average of 71.6°F to the lowest daily average of 23.2°F, or a difference of 48.4°F or 26.9°C which is over 5,000 times greater than the predicted change in temperature in 2100. The average difference between the average daily high and average daily low temperature is 10.4°C or 2,000 times greater than the predicted change in temperature in 2100. In order to give you an idea of how small this temperature change is consider that temperature normally drops as you go higher in the atmosphere. The dry adiabatic lapse rate is the change in temperature with height when no energy is added or subtracted and equals 1°C per 100 meters. For a six foot man this temperature change is 0.018°C between his head and feet which is four times greater than the predicted change in temperature in 2100. Clearly claiming impacts for that small a change in temperature is a stretch at best.