Annotated Citizens Guide to the Climate Act Page

That the public is concerned about climate change is not remarkable considering the entirely one-sided nature of coverage of climate change by the government and media.  However, many New Yorkers are unaware that since 2020 the state has started to implement its ambitious attempt to reduce New York State greenhouse gas emissions to meet the lofty net-zero by 2050 goal mandated by the Climate Leadership & Community Protection Act (Climate Act).   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 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.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.

The heading for each of the following paragraphs is a link to more detailed information.

Climate Act

The actual name of the Climate Act is the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act. It was signed on July 18, 2019 and establishes targets for decreasing greenhouse gas emissions, increasing renewable electricity production, and improving energy efficiency.  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 policies to meet the targets that were presented to the Climate Action Council in the spring of 2021.  Their strategies were converted into specific strategies by the New York State Energy Research & Development Authority over the summer of 2021.  The integration analysis implementation strategies will be incorporated into the draft Scoping Plan by the end of 2021.  In 2022 the Plan will be released to the public for review and comment. 

Implementation Strategy Risks and Effects

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 and be “grid-interactive” despite the risks to safety in the event of an ice storm.  In the transportation sector electric vehicles will be required with vehicle miles traveled limits and zoning changes to discourage the use of personal vehicles. 

Reliability Risks

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.  The critical reliability resource for winter-time wind lulls does not exist.  These make it an ill-conceived plan that will likely end in a reliability crisis

Costs and Benefits

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.

Effect on Global Warming

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.

Zero-Emissions Environmental Impacts

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 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.

What You Can Do

On December 30, 2021 the Climate Action Council released the Scoping Plan that defines how to “achieve the State’s bold clean energy and climate agenda”.   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.

References

The official New York State Climate Act webpage describes New York State climate news and developments.  References for the other side of the story contains links to articles on the Climate Act at the Pragmatic Environmentalist of New York website, implementation overviews, background technology references and background information.