Citizens Guide to the New York 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.

Layman’s Summary of 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.

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 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.

The Climate Act did not determine the greenhouse gas emission targets based on cost feasibility.  The plan would result in increased costs of $170 per month for a family of four in 2030 which will increase to $850 per month by 2050.   When the plan is announced next year, proponents will claim that societal benefits outweigh the costs; however, the benefits do not lower the direct costs.

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 subsumed 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 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.

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.

Annotated Version of the Citizens Guide with References and Additional Information