The Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (Climate Act) establishes a “Net Zero” target by 2050. The Draft Scoping Plan defines how to “achieve the State’s bold clean energy and climate agenda” and claims that there are significant direct and indirect benefits if New York’s greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) are reduced to net-zero. I maintain that any claim of benefits is illusory because in the context of global impacts New York’s contribution is miniscule. This post documents how New York GHG relate to global emission increases.
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.
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 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. The integration analysis was used to develop the Draft Scoping Plan that was released for public comment on December 30, 2021.
New York Compared to the World
Climate Act advocates frequently argue that New York needs to take action because our economy is large. I analyzed that claim recently and summarized the data here. The 2020 Gross State Product (GSP) ranks ninth if compared to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of countries in the world. However, when New York’s GHG 2016 emissions are compared to emissions from other countries, New York ranks 35th. More importantly, a country’s emissions divided by its GDP is a measure of GHG emission efficiency. New York ranks third in this category trailing only Switzerland and Sweden.
There is no question that New York is rich but is not a major player in global GHG emissions. In fact, New York’s share of global GHG emissions is 0.45% in 2016, the last year when state-wide emissions consistent with the methodology used elsewhere are available. In 1990 New York’s share of global GHG emissions was 0.77% so the state’s programs to reduce emissions have been working.
Despite the fact that the ostensible rationale for GHG emission reduction policies is to reduce global warming impacts, the Draft Scoping Plan continues an unbroken string of not reporting the effects of a policy proposal on global warming. The reason is simple. The change to global warming from eliminating New York GHG emissions are simply too small to be measured much less have an effect on any of the purported damages of greenhouse gas emissions. I have calculated the expected impact on global warming as only 0.01°C by the year 2100 if New York’s GHG emissions are eliminated.
The purpose of this post is to document how New York GHG relate to global emission increases. I found CO2 and GHG emissions data for the world’s countries and consolidated the data in a spreadsheet. The trend results indicate that the year-to-year trend in GHG emissions was positive 21 of 26 years and for CO2 emissions was positive 24 of 30 years. The five-year average of the GHG year-to-year trends was positive every year between 1995 and 2016, the last year GHG emissions were available. The five-year average of the CO2 year-to-year trends was positive every year between 1995 and 2020 except for the 2020 COVID year. In addition, excluding COVID year 2020, the smallest five-year average annual global GHG or CO2 emissions increase was 0.5%. New York’s share of global GHG emissions is 0.45% in 2016 so this means that global annual increases in GHG emissions have always been greater than New York’s total contribution to global emissions.
By any measure New York’s complete elimination of GHG emissions is so small that there will not be any effect on the state’s climate and global climate change impacts to New York. Although New York’s economy would be ranked ninth relative to other countries, New York’s emissions are only 0.45% of global emissions which ranks 35th. The change to global warming from eliminating New York GHG emissions is only 0.01°C by the year 2100 which is too small to be measured much less have an effect on any of the purported damages of greenhouse gas emissions. Finally, this post documents that global emissions have increased more than New York’s total share of global emissions since 1995. In other words, whatever New York does to reduce emissions will be supplanted by global emissions increases in a year.
The only possible conclusion is that the Climate Act emissions reduction program is nothing more than virtue-signaling. Given the likely significant costs, risks to reliability, and other impacts to New York society, I think that the schedule and ambition of the Climate Act targets needs to be re-assessed for such an empty gesture.