Citizens Guide to the Climate Act

New York’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (Climate Act) a legal mandate for New York State greenhouse gas emissions to meet the lofty net-zero by 2050 goal. It is very likely that implementation of the technology necessary to meet that goal will adversely affect energy sector affordability and risk current reliability standards.  Unfortunately, most New Yorkers are unaware of it and only a handful understand the implications.  While the Climate Act has been a frequent subject for articles on this website, many of those articles are overly technical for the general public.  In order to address the need for a concise resource of the potential impacts of the Climate Act I have developed the Citizens Guide to the Climate Act.

I have written extensively on implementation of the Climate Act because I believe the ambitions for a zero-emissions economy outstrip available technology such that it will adversely affect reliability and affordability, risk safety, affect lifestyles, will have worse impacts on the environment than the purported effects of climate change in New York, and cannot measurably affect global warming when implemented.   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

The Climate Act became effective on January 1, 2020.  It mandates that the Climate Action Council prepare the Scoping Plan that outlines how to meet its targets. Starting in the fall of 2020 seven advisory panels developed recommended strategies to meet the targets that were presented to the Climate Action Council in the spring of 2021.  Those recommendations were translated into specific policy options in an integration analysis by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and its consultants.  An overview of the results of this integration analysis were presented to the Climate Action Council at two October meetings and has since been updated.  A draft Scoping Plan has been prepared and distributed to the Climate Action Council but not to the public.  Next year there will be public meetings and the opportunity for the public to provide comments.

The Citizen Guide is intended to provide an introduction to the Climate Act and potential ramifications.  A one-page summary has been prepared that can be printed out.  There is an annotated summary reproduced below that includes links to more detailed information on particular topics.  The Guide is a work in progress so feedback is encouraged.

Annotated Citizens Guide to the Climate Act

The Climate Act is an ambitious attempt to reduce New York State greenhouse gas emissions to meet the currently fashionable net-zero by 2050 goal.  The implementation plan boils down to electrify everything and rely on wind and solar to provide the electricity needed.  In order to reach the aspirational goals changes to personal choice are needed, significant risks to reliability are likely, substantial energy costs increases will occur, but there will be no measurable effect on global warming itself and significant environmental impacts from the massive wind and solar deployments.  The bottom line is that we don’t have the technology today to meet the ambitions of the Climate Act and maintain current reliability standards and affordability.  Until we do, we should reconsider the targets and schedule of the law.

Climate Act

The actual name of the Climate Act is the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act. It was signed on July 18, 2019 and establishes targets for decreasing greenhouse gas emissions, increasing renewable electricity production, and improving energy efficiency.  The Climate Action Council is responsible for preparing the Scoping Plan that will “achieve the State’s bold clean energy and climate agenda”.  Starting in the fall of 2020 seven advisory panels developed recommended policies to meet the targets that were presented to the Climate Action Council in the spring of 2021.  Their strategies were converted into specific strategies by the New York State Energy Research & Development Authority over the summer of 2021.  The integration analysis implementation strategies will be incorporated into the draft Scoping Plan by the end of 2021.  In 2022 the Plan will be released to the public for review and comment. 

Implementation Strategy Risks and Effects

In order to meet the net-zero goal of the Climate Act, risky emission reduction strategies from all sectors will be required and personal choices limited. All residences will have to be completely electrified despite the risks to safety in the event of an ice storm.  In the transportation sector electric vehicles will be required and zoning changes to discourage the use of personal vehicles implemented. 

Reliability Risks

The New York electric gird is a complex system that has evolved over many years.  It is highly reliable using proven hardware and procedures.  Relying on unprecedented levels of wind and solar that are not proven on the scale necessary and energy storage system technology to account for intermittent wind and solar that has not been tested for the proposed use is an ill-conceived plan that will likely end in a reliability crisis.

Costs and Benefits

The Climate Act did not determine the greenhouse gas emission targets based on cost feasibility.  The net direct societal costs are $340 billion which equates to $167 per month for a family of four in 2030 and increases to $807 per month by 2050.  When the plan is announced next year, proponents will claim that societal benefits outweigh the costs; however, societal benefits do not lower the direct costs.

Effect on Global Warming

When the Climate Act eliminates New York’s greenhouse gas emissions the effect on global warming will not be measurable.  The expected impact on global warming is only 0.01°C by the year 2100.  More importantly, New York’s emissions will be negated in a matter of months by countries in the developing world building their energy systems with reliable and affordable fossil fuels.  To deny those countries the benefits of plentiful electricity is immoral.

Zero-Emissions Environmental Impacts

The Climate Act only accounts for fossil fuel life-cycle costs and environmental impacts while ignoring the life-cycle impacts of wind, solar, and energy storage technologies.  These “zero-emissions” resources may not have emissions when generating electricity but the volume of materials needed to access dilute wind and solar energy and the rare earth elements necessary for those technologies certainly have environmental impacts when mined and processed.  The large number of wind turbines and solar panels will also create massive amounts of waste when they are retired.  Furthermore, the cumulative environmental impacts of thousands of wind turbines and square miles of solar panels has not been compared to the environmental impacts of current fossil fuel technology.  Finally, it is unreasonable to expect that there will be any changes to environmental impacts due to climate change because the New York effect on global warming is too small to measure.

What You Can Do

In early 2022, the Climate Action Council will release a scoping plan to meet the Climate Act targets for review and comment.  Given the intrusive changes to lifestyles, risks to a reliable electric system, substantial cost increases, serious environmental impacts of the necessary wind, solar and storage technologies, and the lack of any direct global warming benefits, it is appropriate for all New Yorkers to research the effects of the law and comment to the Climate Action Council and your lawmakers.

References

The official New York State Climate Act webpage describes New York State climate news and developments.  Links to articles on the Climate Act at the Pragmatic Environmentalist of New York website, implementation overviews, background technology references and background information are provided in the references.

Conclusion

My colleagues in industry and I all agree on a few things.  We believe that most New Yorkers are unaware of the potential impacts of the Climate Act.  We are convinced that the costs will be eye-watering.  We don’t think that technology is available to maintain current reliability standards and replace fossil fuel sources of energy.  The goal of the Citizens Guide is to educate New Yorkers on the law, the costs, and the risks.  Any feedback on this attempt to responds to that goal is encouraged at nypragmaticenvironmentalist@gmail.com.

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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