Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act Adaptation and Resilience Recommendations

On July 18, 2019 New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA), which establishes targets for decreasing greenhouse gas emissions, increasing renewable electricity production, and improving energy efficiency.  According to a New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) bulletin dated May 10, 2021, the Advisory Panels to the Climate Action Council have all submitted recommendations for consideration in the Scoping Plan to achieve greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions economy-wide.   My posts describing and commenting on the strategies are all available here. This post addresses the Land Use and Local Government Advisory Panel Adaptation and Resilience Recommendations presented at the June 8, 2021 Climate Action Council meeting.

I have written extensively on implementation of the CLCPA because I believe the solutions proposed will adversely affect reliability and affordability, will have worse impacts on the environment than the purported effects of climate change, and cannot measurably affect global warming when implemented.   I briefly summarized the schedule and implementation: CLCPA Summary Implementation Requirements.  I have described the law in general, evaluated its feasibility, estimated costs, described supporting regulationssummarized some of the meetings and complained that its advocates constantly confuse weather and climate in other articles.  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.

Background

Buried in the CLCPA are two amendments to § 9. Chapter 355 of the laws of 2014, constituting the community risk         and resiliency act that add two new sections 17-a and 17-b.  The amendments read as follows:

  • 17-a. The department of environmental conservation shall take actions to promote adaptation and resilience, including:

(a) actions to help state agencies and other entities assess the reasonably foreseeable risks of climate change on any proposed projects, taking into account issues such as: sea level rise, tropical and extra-tropical cyclones, storm surges, flooding, wind, changes in average and peak temperatures, changes in average and peak precipitation, public health impacts, and impacts on species and other natural resources.

b) identifying the most significant climate-related risks, taking into account the probability of occurrence, the magnitude of the potential harm, and the uncertainty of the risk.

(c) measures that could mitigate significant climate-related risks, as well as a cost-benefit analysis and implementation of such measures.

  • 17-b. Major permits for the regulatory programs of subdivision three of section 70-0107 of the environmental conservation law shall require applicants to demonstrate that future physical climate risk has been considered. In reviewing such information, the department may require the applicant to mitigate significant risks to public infrastructure and/or services, private property not owned by the applicant, adverse impacts on disadvantaged communities, and/or natural resources in the vicinity of the project.

One of the tenets of pragmatic meteorologists is that extreme weather is going to happen with or without climate change.  Therefore, adaptation and resilience measures for known extreme weather risks is an obvious “no-regrets” approach to mitigate weather-related impacts.  This post will discuss the approach proposed and the solutions suggested for adaptation and resilience. 

Adaptation and Resilience Recommendations

The Land Use and Local Government Advisory Panel outlined the perceived problem, described 12 adaptation and resilience recommendations in three categories, and claimed a number of benefits and impacts in the presentation to the Climate Action Council (recording here).  

One of the ironies of the presentation was that there were repeated appeals to the “science” even as the discussion ignored the scientific process.  Central to the scientific method is the idea of empirical falsification whereby theories are scrutinized and tested using data and facts.  Importantly, this means evaluation of all the data.  Albert Einstein once said, “No amount of experimentation can ever prove me right; a single experiment can prove me wrong.”  The CLCPA process routinely picks and chooses its supporting science arguments but ignores any conflicting evidence.

In order to justify the adaptation and resilience recommendations there was a slide listing “New York’s climate vulnerabilities”.  The CLCPA rationale for the transition away from fossil fuels is that climate change is a reality and our future is at stake.   I recently summarized recent articles debunking the “climate emergency” meme.  I have also set up a page that provides links to posts on the claims that the effects are being seen now and there is a climate emergency that dictates action now.  I also have a page with posts highlighting the  difference between weather and climate which is constantly mistaken by Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) advocates.  Based on that work, I believe the slide is mostly cherry-picked baloney.

The justification for action veers even further from the science in the slide “Significant risk in continuing GHG emissions”.  The claim that there could be 100s of billions of dollars of damages per year is only possible “under a high emissions scenario”.  That scenario has been described as “increasingly implausible with every passing year”.  Roger Pielke, Jr. explains “Evidence indicates the scenarios of the future to 2100 that are at the focus of much of climate research have already diverged from the real world and thus offer a poor basis for projecting policy-relevant variables like economic growth and carbon dioxide emissions.”  Nonetheless, the CLCPA advisory panels and state agencies trot out this propaganda at every opportunity.  The fact is that they pick and choose the quotes that support their claims for inevitable climate catastrophe and ignore all contradictory findings.  That is not “science”.

The panel proposed 12 enabling strategies in three categories.  Under “Building Capacity” they proposed four enabling strategies: AR1: Commit to creating, implementing and updating a comprehensive and equitable state climate change adaptation and resilience plan; AR2: Incorporate equitable adaptation and risk-reduction considerations into relevant state funding and regulatory programs, projects and policies; AR3: Strengthen meaningful community engagement and public education, and build adaptive capacity across all sectors; and AR4: Identify and evaluate options for supporting equitable adaptation and resilience practices and projects, and to enhance insurance protection.  The “Communities and Infrastructure” theme had five strategies: AR5: Provide state agency planning and technical support for equitable regional and local adaptation and resilience plans and projects; AR6: Evaluate opportunities to ensure equitable consideration of future climate conditions in land-use planning and environmental reviews; AR7: Develop policies, programs, and decision support tools to reduce risks associated with coastal and inland flooding; AR8: Develop policies and programs to reduce human risks associated with new patterns of thermal extremes; and AR9: Ensure the reliability, resilience and safety of a decarbonized energy system.  The last category, “Living Systems” had three enabling strategies: AR10: Develop policies and programs to reduce risks threatening ecosystems and biodiversity; AR11: Enhance climate resilience and adaptive capacity of agricultural community, while preparing to take advantage of emerging opportunities; and AR12: Develop policies and programs to preserve and protect the ability of forest ecosystems to sequester carbon.  I am not going to address each of these strategies but will highlight some issues with some of them.

“Building capacity” refers to yet another plan with its associated bureaucracy, including adaptation and risk-reduction considerations into relevant state funding and regulatory programs, projects and policies; identification and evaluation of options for supporting equitable adaptation and resilience practices and projects. Finally, there is the indoctrination recommendation to “strengthen meaningful community engagement and public education” no doubt continuing the theme of carefully selected “science” as the rationale for all this planning.

I agree with the concept of a state adaptation and resilience plan but I believe that it would be more appropriate to emphasize observed extreme weather rather than alleged climate impacts.  Most of the people involved in the CLCPA implementation don’t understand, don’t want to understand, or understand but have vested interests to ignore the fact that we don’t understand the climate system well enough to project how much of an effect, if any, reductions in GHG emissions will have on observed weather.  The fact is that society does not have a resilient plan for extreme weather so even though the rationale is wrong, the concept of a plan to address extreme weather is a good one. 

The proposal includes an update the New York State Energy Research & Development Authority’s (NYSERDA) ClimAID report.  The last edition squandered a lot of money for climate scientists to run models and claim that they could distinguish the climate signal in New York.  Naturally all the results were consistent with New York’s climate agenda.  I expect nothing different this time.  Unfortunately, the enabling strategies continually refer to using the projections from this analysis in their planning processes.  If the analyses use the inappropriate emissions projections described above, the result will over-estimate potential effects and unnecessary resources will be expended for unlikely projections.

The theme of “communities and infrastructure” is to develop a planning process that incorporates consideration of future climate conditions. Specific strategies for coastal and inland flooding as well as “new patterns of thermal extremes” are proposed.  The benefit of implementation is: ”reduction of climate risks results in direct health and safety benefits”.  This includes the biggest oversight in the presentation.

The final enabling strategy for communities and infrastructure is “Ensure the reliability, resilience and safety of a decarbonized energy system.”  The Climate and Community Investment Act’s Legislative findings and declaration stated that Superstorm Sandy “caused at least 53 deaths and $32 billion in damage in New York state”.  In February 2021, severe winter weather in Texas caused at least 151 deaths, property damage of $18 billion, economic damages of $86 billion to $129 billion, and $50 billion for electricity over normal prices during the storm.   For years prior to the storm about $66 billion was spent on wind and solar in Texas.   In addition, the wind and solar sectors collected about $21.7 billion in local, state, and federal subsidies and incentives.  The problem in Texas is that when electricity is needed most, weather conditions are least conducive to wind and solar production.  New York is embarking on the same approach, has the same renewable resource availability problem, and should expect the same sort of impacts if a winter storm knocks out the electric system when heating and transportation are electrified.  This enabling strategy is critical but not because of climate impacts.  It is much more likely that the transition to renewable energy to meet the CLCPA targets will be the problem that affects reliability, resilience and safety.

The theme “living systems” had three enabling strategies: policies and programs to reduce risks threatening ecosystems and biodiversity, “enhance climate resilience and adaptive capacity of agricultural community” and policies and programs to preserve and protect the ability of forest ecosystems to sequester carbon.  These enabling strategies suffer from the same oversight as the previously discussed reliability, resilience and safety strategy.  The greatest threat to New York’s living system is the land needed to build all the wind and solar facilities needed to produce enough renewable energy to replace fossil fuels.  An analysis done for NYSERDA on wind power and biodiversity found that: “5,430 square kilometers (1.3 million acres) of land in New York that are both suitable for wind power development and avoid areas that are likely to have high biodiversity value. Using an estimate of 3.0 MW/square kilometers, this translates to a megawatt capacity estimate of 16,300 MW (± 9,000 MW) for New York’s terrestrial landscape.”  The latest projections suggests that twice as much wind power development will be required which obviously means that development will occur in areas of high biodiversity value.  Surely the space needed for wind and solar development will also adversely affect agriculture lands and forests.  Also unrecognized is the fact that in rural areas where electric outages are common residents commonly use wood stoves for backup.  When the requirement for all electric homes kicks in, I think the demand for wood for heating will soar which will adversely affect the ability of forest ecosystems to sequester carbon.

Benefits and impacts

The presentation to the Climate Action Council had three slides describing benefits and impacts.  The first argued that because disadvantaged communities are most vulnerable to climate change it presents an opportunity for the CLCPA implementation to address those vulnerabilities.  While I have no issue with the concept that disadvantaged communities should be targeted, I worry that the potential for all the programs to increase energy costs will mean that many of those least able to afford higher energy prices will not get the support they need to prevent energy poverty.  The disconnect between inevitable higher energy prices with very little direct benefits to those least able to afford those increases and the support for programs that cause higher energy prices by environmental justice organizations befuddles me.  Ultimately poorer people will have a more difficult time adapting and becoming more resilient to extreme weather and the alleged effects of climate change.  I will address this issue when I post on the recommendations from the Climate Justice Working Group

Health benefits are commonly ascribed to actions that consider climate change.  The presentation’s slide lists direct health benefits.  Someone, somewhere following the climate change funding bandwagon has undoubtedly made claims for those benefits.  I leave it the reader to consider how likely these alleged benefits could be linked to climate change as opposed to other factors

Another common theme for CLCPA proponents is that implementing these programs will create jobs.  During this process no one has raised the possibility that higher energy prices might force businesses to re-locate or go out of business so job losses are a real potential.    There is one other aspect of this slide that needs to be highlighted.  There is a graphic image that includes a quotation that states that UCLA professor Christa Tirado said in 2011 “in 2020, the UN has projected that we will have 50 million climate refugees”.  It is 2021, and rather than relying on a ten-year old projection I believe it would be more appropriate to document where the climate refugees are.  Absent that verification I can only label this as another example of cherry-picked propaganda.

Conclusion

In my 45-year air pollution meteorology career there has been more than one instance where I got the right answer but for the wrong reason.  For example, while evaluating air quality models that predict the impacts of power plants, I found that the models were protective of human health and welfare because they conservatively predicted downwind concentrations compared to observations.  However, there were instances when the models predicted the highest concentrations for one set of meteorological conditions and the observed highest concentrations occurred during a different set of conditions.  Right answer for the wrong reason.

In my opinion this sums up the CLCPA adaptation and resilience recommendations.  I agree that this is something that should be done because our current infrastructure is not resilient to observed extreme weather.  However, the rationale for these recommendations is that they need to be done because of climate change impacts.  Proponents of the CLCPA believe that any unusual weather is due to climate change caused by human emissions of greenhouse gases.  That opinion flies in the face of the “science” that the naïve believe supports their position and common sense.  Given that climate has always been changing and that historical CO2 levels have varied more than current observations, common sense says that whatever effect anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions have on weather is a tweak and not the primary driver of observed weather variations. 

Finally, I showed that the greatest threat to the reliability, resilience, and safety of the electric system is not climate change but the proposed plan to rely on intermittent and diffuse wind and solar resources to provide most of the electric energy in the state.  Furthermore, the greatest threat to ecosystem biodiversity is the land use that will have to be converted to utility-scale wind and solar facilities.  There simply is not enough land suitable for wind development that does not have high biodiversity value to prevent development where it will have significant impacts.

Author: rogercaiazza

I am a meteorologist (BS and MS degrees), was certified as a consulting meteorologist and have worked in the air quality industry for over 40 years. I author two blogs. Environmental staff in any industry have to be pragmatic balancing risks and benefits and (https://pragmaticenvironmentalistofnewyork.blog/) reflects that outlook. The second blog addresses the New York State Reforming the Energy Vision initiative (https://reformingtheenergyvisioninconvenienttruths.wordpress.com). Any of my comments on the web or posts on my blogs are my opinion only. In no way do they reflect the position of any of my past employers or any company I was associated with.

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