NYS Climate Action Council

by John Wolcott

ALBANY, NY: Here is a brief review of the Summary of the State Climate Action Council’s first public meeting on January 25, 2010 at the N.Y. State Museum was held pursuant to Gov. Paterson’s Executive Order 24. This was the first State Climate Action Council Public Outreach Meeting pursuant to Gov. Paterson's Executive Order 24 concerning measures to be taken to combat global warming. It's not too bad and compares well with California's unilateral actions and goes past them at some points, at least in stated intent. A major goal spelled out in this order mirrors the current Federal Government's of "80X50" . An intention of lowering the level of greenhouse gas emissions to 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. Then there's a stated State goal termed "45X15" . This calls for 45% of the projected electricity load to be provided by efficiency and renewables by 2015. There are other interesting items and it actually isn't too long.

Why Gov. Paterson hasn't publicly promoted this more is beyond me. I sorely and surely would that he would. It seems to have the support of much if not all of the environmentalist community in New York State. I also consider it to have been Gov. Paterson's best foot forward at a time when he was soon to need one real badly.

The Sunday Times Union headline for February 28 reads: "Can Paterson still govern? Will he be ignored as a lame duck or become a liberated lion?" I hope Gov. Paterson becomes a roaring lion on just one issue: Executive Order 24. Now is his chance to shine for always, and favorably in the publics remembrance. It's his chance to push anti global warming measures, as best he can, beyond his own present executive order. Time will prove him right in so doing, and I'd say he well knows that. There's nothing at all for Gov. Paterson to lose by now pushing for beyond 80×50 and for the more drastic measures that are needed. Anyway ; I was, tentatively, ready to support Paterson in his bid for election unless some other canidate could come up with something better than Executive Order 24, which I'm afraid may be needed. Is this order going to be relegated to the bottom shelf, the back burner or to the round file now?

There are surely outstanding contradictions over particulars of Executive Order 24, but perhaps thats another reason to promote it in that it can be used to fault and counter those contradictions. For examples: the Bellayre Mt. Fiasco, as well the plans for drilling for gas through the Manilius Shale. Not to mention closing State Parks, raiding the State's Environmental Fund, and my favorite targets: the continuance of the anti environmental policy of applying IDA and Empire State funding to development in rural and suburban locations. Worst of all , as far as Save the Pine Bush is concerned, The Department of Environmental Conversation's colossal sell out in approving the expansion of Albany's Grand City Dump. Also; I won't let it go that Governor Paterson failed to direct an answer to my letter to him recommending keeping the price of gas up artificially by increasing the State sales tax on it.

The presenter statements and audience comments and answers were pretty well accurately reported in this summary. A sympathetic clerk even made sure that my comments were given their due by disguising my real identity as a current plaintiff against NYS DEC.

The best general statement by the presenters, was made by Janet Joseph of NYSERDA simply by starting off with the statement: "Business as usual is not an option." Then: "We need a radical change in how we produce and use energy. We are still using 20th. century energy technology based on 19th. century discoveries. In no other major sector is this the case."

For a useful particular Ms. Joseph showed temperature graphs for divers time periods, and pointed out that relatively short term lows and highs don't count compared to longer term trends. She noted that "there are some who do not read the graphs this way however." An obvious reference to the global warming deniers.

There were several statements of interest to all environmentalists but, at least, two were of special interest to Save the Pine Bush. Alan Belenz Director of Climate Change for NYSDEC, stated that part of the State’s effort to reduce carbon emissions is to "revitalize urban areas and drive people back to urban living." Very importantly "The protection of natural forests" was cited coupled with the statement that "there are 16 million acres of privately owned forests in New York State." Well I'm sorry to hear that. There is but little control at all, in actual practice; over cutting down private forests in New York and no proposals here to remedy that. This even though, in addition to all the other reasons for protecting forests, they are all carbon sinks to greater and lesser degrees. Mark Watso , also from NYSERDA, said right out: "Our climate is going to change. " He cited "bigger storms, more heat waves , more intense rain and snow, and coastal flooding." Also cited was the increasing appearance here of the Carolina Wren as an indicator of the S.E. warm moist climate beginning to move north already. He showed a 55 year temperature increase for Central Park which indicated a 5 degree increase.

Among those fielding questions and comments were: Jeff Jones from Apollo Alliance cited a long term tendency of NYSDEC to compromise on the environment. He hopes that won't happen with the bold and advanced goals and intents being expressed and laid out here. He urged them and other players in the newly formed Climate Action Council not to back away from 80X50. Karen Sutherland, citizen, said their plans are very ambitious and pointed in the right direction then asked: "What happens after the report goes to the political process Everyone knows we have the most dysfunctional legislature in the country." Alan Belenz replied, "We don't know the answer to this last question yet . . ." Jon Wilcox, citizen, asked Will 80X50 really be enough?

There are reports that the IPCC calculations are underestimates and that global warming is actually progressing faster that previously thought. Then there are the tipping points which may soon be passed. Furthermore, there is a lag effect whereby if all were to be stopped now, the carbon already accumulated in the atmosphere would continue to trap heat for years to come." Alan Belenz replied, "We have imperfect information so we don't know what an 80X50 reduction will do . . . We are on a long term journey to a zero-carbon economy. We need to achieve equilibrium with our emissions and what plants and crops pull out of the atmosphere. " Added remarks from citizen Wilcox, "At least don't retreat from these stated goals. Be flexible and prepared ahead of time to rapidly raise the level and speed of them if natural events and science show that it's necessary to."

Mark Schaeffer, long standing environmental activist said, "What we need is a change more radical than the industrial revolution but in less time. We need a margin of error – we don't want to bet our future on a rosy scenario. There is thinking that the 450 ppm level may not be sufficient to protect against a runaway negative feedback loop (e.g. melting of arctic icecaps leading to release of high intensity methane from melting perma-frost). Some think we need a 90-% per cent reduction" This from the published summary, but Mark's concluding remark, not published, was,"Laws of physics are not subject to negotiation." (No reply published)

I recommend support of the New York State Climate Action Council even though there is not yet much if anything in State law to support it's aims. Even though the State and it's agencies by and large have not, hitherto, had the best environmental record. Even not enough has been said yet over changing life styles, and nothing over halting unlimited exponential economic growth. Not the requisite level dire emergency neither, as yet. Never the less, this new council and the people in it seem pretty good and they want our input and seem willing to listen, and to exchange information and ideas. We shouldn't pass up such an opportunity. Especially while the Climate Action Plan is in it's formative stage. The Governor's directive in this is to create a draft Climate Action Plan by September 30 2010. The make up of the Council by including a variety of State agencies is a positive sign . It reflects the concept that we shouldn’t pigeon hole or relegate environment off on the side to just one Department or Bureau. Environment is much too all encompassing and needs be taken much more seriously than it, generally is. It is, in fact, our "milieu" in which we are all totally enveloped. Milieu conveys a more serous meaning, and is the formal word for environment in Dutch, German, Danish, and French, which it comes fro,

There are 5 more Public Outreach meetings scheduled this year by the New York State Climate Action Council: March 30 Environmental Justice Meeting #1, June 29 Environmental Justice Meeting # 2, October Public Meeting on the Draft Report and November Public Meeting on the Draft Report. Meeting places haven't been decided upon yet , nor precise dates for the October and November meetings but here is the Climate Action Council's web site : http://www.nyclimatechange.us. So stay tuned to this.



Published in the March/April 2010 Newsletter