Citizens Guide to the New York Climate Act

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 30, 2021 New York State released for public comment its Draft Scoping Plan that defines how to “achieve the State’s bold clean energy and climate agenda” and kicks off a public comment period.

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 lofty 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 for the proposed use.  These make it an ill-conceived plan that will likely end in a reliability crisis. 

The greenhouse gas emission target in the Climate Act were not determined or based on cost feasibility. The net direct societal costs range between $310 and $290 billion.  The Scoping Plan claims that societal benefits outweigh the costs; however, societal benefits do not lower the direct costs to consumers and the benefits calculation contains errors.

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.

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’s emissions are less than half a percent of total global emissions and global emissions have been increasing, on average by more than half a percent per year since 1990.

In order to meet the Climate Act targets, the Climate Action Council recently released the Scoping Plan for public 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