Latest IPCC Report Shows Why New York Must Choose Clean Energy Over Fracking

Arriving at the same time as a big-screen film about an epic, world-changing flood described in the Book of Genesis, the almost biblical sweep of gloomy news from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change portrays an unfolding global future of drought, floods, faltering crop yields, and wars fought over resources. This latest analysis of climate change may seem at first to focus on regions of our planet far from the Empire State. But make no mistake: This is about us, too.

What the IPCC had to say in this report is that climate change is occurring on all continents and across the oceans. It’s a complex document, but here’s a quick two-page summary of questions and answers. Here’s a 12-minute video with a more graphic look at the existing threats. And here’s a story on it from Politico.

There is good news. This latest document, by the IPCC’s Working Group II, points out not only the scary perils, but the real opportunities for reducing climate-changing emissions of greenhouse gases. That’s what we’re about in New York. Our state energy plan calls for a sharp increase in the use of renewable energy sources, to enable a reduction in our reliance on fossil fuels. And we have been making some progress, as my colleague, senior energy and climate analyst Jackson Morris, outlined last month.

“For two decades, NRDC has worked to scale up renewable energy and energy efficiency in New York State as the key strategy for fighting global warming, protecting public health, lowering New Yorkers’ energy bills and creating jobs,” Morris testified March 6, before the New York State Energy Planning Board in Syracuse.

 “As the result of efforts by many stakeholders and policies adopted by the State, New York State has scaled up its clean energy efforts considerably,” Morris testified. “A decade ago, New York State had just 48 megawatts of wind power; today, after a decade of our successful Renewable Portfolio Standard program, we have 1.8 gigawatts of wind—more than 37 times more than we had—with some of the largest projects located right here in central New York. Just four years ago, New York State had minimal amounts of solar power installed; today, after the first phase of the NY-Sun program, not counting the many installations that occurred in 2013, we have nearly 200 MW and are finally in the top ten states for installed solar. And yet we have far to go before we realize our full potential for clean energy in New York State….”

Though there are ways we could be doing better on efficiency renewables, the state is generally on a good track there. But we could go crashing down a disastrous siding, if New York opts to allow widespread fracking for natural gas. A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the concerns expressed by one of the consultants to the state’s Health Department, which is studying the potential health impacts of fracking.

Dr. Nirav Shah, the health commissioner, has not yet said definitely when the study will be done. And we’ve made it very clear that scientific rigor should take precedence over any political consideration—timing or otherwise. We believe that Governor Cuomo shares that science-first view.

Now that he has the state budget behind him, the IPCC report is still fresh news—and a movie about a flood easily led this past weekend in ticket sales over one about a frog—this would be an excellent time for the governor to pivot to talking about energy and climate change.

What we hope he’ll do is offer new assurances about the state’s commitment to increasing the use of clean energy and limiting greenhouse gas emissions. World leaders have to find a way to agree next year on a new climate change pact. New York’s leaders have to do their part right here in the Empire State. They can do so by choosing renewables and efficiency as the preferred alternatives to addressing our energy and economic development needs.