The Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act or Climate Act is a legal mandate for New York State greenhouse gas emissions to meet the lofty net-zero by 2050 goal. 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 have the technology, we should reconsider the targets and schedule of the law. This Citizens Guide provides a simple overview summary here and a link to an annotated version with details, documentation, and references.
On December 19, 2022 New York State approved the Final Scoping Plan that outlines an approach to “achieve the State’s bold clean energy and climate agenda”. It does not include a feasibility analysis to determine whether reducing greenhouse gas emissions emitted to meet the bold climate agenda could be done reliably, affordably, and with acceptable environmental impacts. New York’s greenhouse emissions are less than one half of one percent of global emissions and global emissions have been increasing by more than one half of one percent per year. This fact does not mean that we should not do something but it does mean we should take the time to do it right.
Layman’s Summary of the Climate Act
The Climate Act is an ambitious attempt to reduce New York State greenhouse gas emissions to meet an ambitious net-zero by 2050 goal. The implementation plan boils down to electrifying everything and rely on wind and solar to provide the needed electricity. In order to reach the aspirational goals, changes to your personal choice are needed. Significant risks to energy reliability are likely. Substantial increases in energy costs will occur. Significant environmental impacts from the massive wind and solar deployments are inevitable. All this with no measurable effect in global warming itself.
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.
The New York electric gird is a complex system that has evolved over many years. It is a highly reliable system using proven hardware and procedures. Reliance on unprecedented levels of wind and solar has not been proven on the scale necessary. The energy storage system technology to account for intermittent wind and solar has not been tested on the scale necessary for the proposed use. These make it an ill-conceived plan that will likely end in a reliability crisis.
The Scoping Plan does not include a detailed accounting of the costs to consumers. It claims that the costs of inaction are greater than the costs of action but that claim is misleading and inaccurate. It is misleading because the costs of action only includes the costs of the Climate Act and do not include all the costs to meet the net-zero by 2050 target. It is inaccurate because it double counts the societal benefits of reductions.
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 0.001°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.
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 generating technology.
On December 19, 2022 New York State approved the Final Scoping Plan that outlines an approach to “achieve the State’s bold clean energy and climate agenda”. In 2023 the Department of Environmental Conservation will propose regulations and the Legislature will consider laws to implement the Scoping Plan recommendations. 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 demand details of what is expected, provide comments to the State, and contact your elected officials to let them know your concerns.
Annotated Version of the Citizens Guide with References and Additional Information