How Much Will REV Affect Global Warming

Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) is Governor Cuomo’s plan to “rebuild, strengthen and modernize New York’s energy system. The ultimate goal of REV is to change the energy system of New York to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions 80% from 1990 levels by 2050 (“80 by 50”). The over-riding rationale for the need to do this is to mitigate the impacts of global warming. Inconveniently, the State has never quantified just how much the proposed plan will 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.   These estimates are based on the MAGICC: Model for the Assessment of Greenhouse-gas Induced Climate Change) so they represent projected changes based on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates. 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. The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority Patterns and Trends document provides CO2 emissions data. In 1990 the NY total was 235.8 million metric tons so the reduction to the REV goal of 80% is 188.7 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 REV reduction emissions goal (188.7) divided by the US emissions (5,631.3).  Table 1 Analysis of Carbon Dioxide Emissions and Temperature Savings lists the results.

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 in 86 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 188.7 million metric tons on projected global temperature rise would be a reduction, or a “savings,” of approximately 0.0028°C by the year 2050 and 0.0058°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 over two hundred times greater than the projected change in temperature in 2050.

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 which is nearly 29,000 times greater than the predicted change in temperature in 2050. 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 which is over 11,000 times greater than the predicted change in temperature in 2050. The average difference between the average daily high and average daily low temperature is 18.7°F or over 4,000 times greater than the predicted change in temperature in 2050. In order to give you an idea of how small this temperature change consider changes with elevation and latitude. Generally, temperature decreases three (3) degrees Fahrenheit for every 1,000 foot increase in elevation above sea level. The projected temperature difference is the same as going down 18 inches. The general rule is that temperature changes three (3) degrees Fahrenheit for every 300 mile change in latitude at an elevation of sea level. The projected temperature change is the same as going south 0.4 miles.

Conclusion

I do not think that there is any question why the State has not provided a quantitative estimate of the impact on global warming from REV or any other New York State initiative related to climate change. Clearly we can expect no discernable impact. The calculated values provided in this post are based on the “consensus” estimates of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change which I personally believe over-estimate the impact of temperature changes caused by greenhouse gas emissions but do represent the justification for the 80 by 50 goal. As shown claiming any observable impacts for the projected small change in temperature due to these emissions reductions is a stretch at best.

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