Poll: Only 4% of NY Puts Environmental Threats at the Top
Roger Caiazza (on the subject of)
Independent Researcher and Publisher,
Pragmatic Environmentalist of New York
[Editor’s Note: Net zero hits rock bottom as stunning Sienna College poll shows only 4% of New Yorkers agree environment threats should be the primary concern of the state.]
A recent Siena College poll found that respondents thought that the cost of living in New York is the top issue for Governor Hochul and the Legislature to address and that threats to the state’s environments was a primary concern for only 4% of the respondents. This post argues that implementation of New York’s Climate Leadership & Community Protection Act (Climate Act) is inconsistent with the concerns expressed in the poll.
I have followed the Climate Act since it was first proposed, submitted comments on the Climate Act implementation plan, and have written over 350 articles about New York’s net-zero transition. I have devoted a lot of time to the Climate Act because I believe the ambitions for a zero-emissions economy embodied in the Climate Act outstrip available renewable technology such that the net-zero transition will do more harm than good by increasing costs unacceptably, threatening electric system reliability, and have major unintended environmental impacts. The opinions expressed in this post do not reflect the position of any of my previous employers or any other company I have been associated with, these comments are mine alone.
Climate Act Background
The Climate Act established a New York “Net Zero” target (85% reduction and 15% offset of emissions) by 2050. It includes an interim 2030 reduction target of a 40% reduction by 2030 and a requirement that all electricity generated be “zero-emissions” by 2040. The Climate Action Council is responsible for preparing the Scoping Plan that outlines how to “achieve the State’s bold clean energy and climate agenda.”
In brief, that plan is to electrify everything possible using zero-emissions electricity. The Integration Analysis prepared by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and its consultants quantifies the impact of the electrification strategies. That material was used to develop the Draft Scoping Plan. After a year-long review, the Scoping Plan recommendations were finalized at the end of 2022. In 2023 the Scoping Plan recommendations are supposed to be implemented through regulation and legislation.
Siena College Poll
According to the press release for a recent Siena College Poll Conducted by the Siena College Research Institute:
More than eight in ten voters say that the cost of living in New York is a major problem – including at least 80% of Democrats, Republicans and independents – and 27%, a plurality, say it is the most important issue that the Governor and Legislature should be working on now. Crime, the recent influx of migrants and the availability of affordable housing are the next three most important issues for New Yorkers. Fifty-seven percent say the quality of life in the state is getting worse, while 27% say it’s staying the same and 14% say it’s getting better, according to a new Siena College poll of registered New York State voters released today.
The poll of 804 New York registered voters was conducted September 10 – 13, 2023. I spent some time looking at the poll results and think that there are ramifications of this poll on Climate Act implementation. Consistent with my personal beliefs, responses to questions about the direction of the state, the fiscal condition of the state, and quality of life were all negative as shown below.
The response to the question “Is New York State on the right track, or is it headed in the wrong direction?” yielded the following results:
Right track 35%
Wrong direction 52%
Don’t know/No opinion 13%
The question “How would you describe the fiscal condition of New York State right now? Would you describe it as excellent, good, fair, or poor?” generated he following:
Total Positive 26%
Total Negative 69%
Don’t know/No opinion 5%
The quality-of-life question, “As you consider all aspects of living in New York State, do you think the quality of life in the state is getting better, staying the same, or getting worse?” provided the following responses:
Getting better 14%
Staying the same 27%
Getting worse 57%
Combination (better and worse) 1%
Don’t know/Refused 2%
In addition to the press release highlighted results, questions related to issues confronting New York were included. The poll asked respondents whether seven issues were “a major problem for New York State, a minor problem for New York State, or not really a problem for New York State.” The responses ranked by percentage that thought it was a major problem and including the question number follow
Q27: Cost of living in New York:
Major problem 83%
Minor problem 12%
Not really a problem 4%
Don’t know/Refused 0%
Q25: The availability of affordable housing:
Major problem 77%
Minor problem 15%
Not really a problem 6%
Don’t know/Refused 1%
Major problem 75%
Minor problem 20%
Not really a problem 6%
Don’t know/Refused 2%
Q24: The recent influx of migrants:
Major problem 62%
Minor problem 22%
Not really a problem 14%
Don’t know/Refused 2%
Q28: Access to quality, affordable health care:
Major problem 52%
Minor problem 28%
Not really a problem 16%
Don’t know/Refused 4%
Q26: Threats to the state’s environment:
Major problem 44%
Minor problem 34%
Not really a problem 15%
Don’t know/Refused 6%
Q29: New Yorkers choosing to leave the state for other parts of the country:
Major problem 38%
Minor problem 25%
Not really a problem 33%
Don’t know/Refused 4%
The final question in the poll asked which of these issues “is the single most important issue that the Governor and Legislature should be working on now?” and the ranked order results were:
With respect to the Climate Act there are two notable results. The Climate Act narrative is that there is an existential threat to society due to climate change. The question concerning threats to the state’s environment found that only 44% agreed that environmental threats was a major problem. That 49% thought that threats to the state’s environment were either a minor problem or not really a problem is inconsistent with the “existential” threat narrative. Furthermore, only 4% of respondents thought this was the most important issue for the Governor and Legislature to consider.
The Hochul Administration has not provided clear and transparent costs to ratepayers for expected energy costs nor the costs of electrification of homes and transportation. All my analyses suggest that the costs to achieve the Climate Act mandates will be extraordinary and there is no question that they will add to the cost of living. The only issue nearly all respondents responded to was the cost of living in New York and 83% of respondents thought this was a major issue. This was also the highest ranked of the most important issues questions.
There is no question that Climate Act implementation will add to the cost of living in New York. I recently described expected ratepayer costs due to the New York Climate Act. James Hanley explained: that multiple offshore wind projects that are not even built yet have asked the state’s Public Service Commission (PSC) to renegotiate their strike prices which will add to costs. Colin Kinniburgh wrote an article that notes that the renewable energy developers are not in agreement that bailing out struggling projects is appropriate.
In other jurisdictions that are further down the net-zero transition there are concerns. In the Climate Act, section 16 of § 75-0103, there is a mandate to consider efforts at other jurisdictions: “The council shall identify existing climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts at the federal, state, and local levels and may make recommendations regarding how such policies may improve the state’s efforts.” Although not expressly noted, I believe that this should extend to other jurisdictions wherever they are.
The Prime Minister of Great Britain, Rishi Sunak, recently said he would spare the public the “unacceptable costs” of net zero as he scaled back a string of flagship environmental policies. A summary of articles about this new position suggests that New York Climate Act implementation plans should pay attention to the lessons learned in Great Britain. A few highlights follow,
The Daily Telegraph, 20 September 2023 states that:
The Prime Minister warned that voters would revolt against making the UK a net zero carbon emitter by 2050 unless politicians were more honest and “realistic” about the costs involved.
Mr Sunak delayed the ban on new petrol car sales from 2030 to 2035, pushed back the ban on new oil boiler sales from 2026 to 2035, and increased heat pump grants to £7,500.
An editorial in the The Daily Telegraph, 21 September 2023 notes that “Market forces and scientific advancement should create a greener world. We won’t get there by impoverishing Britain and alienating voters”.
The Sun, 21 September 2023 editorializes that:
The Sun launched our Give Us A Brake campaign because we knew the hasty, random, unrealistic climate deadlines he inherited would hurt our readers.
His predecessors had no idea how anyone would afford their headlong charge for net zero and didn’t seem to care.
It was neither fair nor wise to impose vast change without public consent.
This PM’s sensible and modest tweaks deal honestly with reality, not green fantasy and wishful thinking.
Another editorial, The Times, 21 September 2023 states that:
Those disappointed by Rishi Sunak’s sensible decision to delay the deadlines that set the pace of the British economy’s transition to net zero should not blame the prime minister. It was Boris Johnson, playing as statesman as the United Kingdom prepared to host the Cop26 climate summit, who rushed forward by a decade the ban on new petrol and diesel vehicles. It was Theresa May, in the final weeks of her premiership, who led the desultory 90 minutes of parliamentary debate that waved a legally binding 2050 net zero target onto the statute book. Both decisions were symptomatic of a political culture that has persistently failed to reckon with the true costs of a policy that will fundamentally reshape the Britain’s economic landscape.
Those articles provide a backdrop to an essay by Ben Pile that calls the entire Great Britain transition into question. The essay is a worthwhile read. He describes six failures of green policy:
- “No politician has any clue how to realize Net Zero targets.” This extends to New York because there is no implementation plan just a scoping plan outline. The failure to include details ensures that the plans will fail.
- “The green lobby has LONG promised lower prices and greater energy security but has failed to deliver.” As noted above the New York renewable lobbyists are asking for money before projects even break ground. Electric reliability issues have been ignored to date by the Climate Action Council.
- “Behind the scenes, the failure of both global and national climate policy has been known for a long time — since the Paris Agreement (PA) at the latest.” New York GHG emissions are less than one half of one percent of global emissions and global emissions have been increasing on average by more than one half of one percent per year since 1990. Why is there any urgency in New York?
- “Despite claims that other countries are steaming ahead with boiler bans, car bans, heat pumps, and championing Net Zero policies, especially in Europe, they are in fact creating deep schisms between and within EU member states”. We are starting to see this occur in the United States.
- “Environmental, Social, and Governance is failing.” Pile explains that investing using these principles does not provide adequate returns.
- “ Ukraine, Russia, and the realignment of geopolitics.” Pile explains that “Who really believes that Western diplomats now have any chance of bringing Russia, China, and India into the Net Zero suicide pact? “
Sunak could not have done less to correct this mess. But what he has done is a good thing. And it includes setting a trap for the eco-catastrophists. The more they howl and wail, the more they will expose their utter contempt for ordinary people. It is not in Sunak’s gift, even if he wanted it, to reverse the entire sorry policy agenda. Too much stands in his way. But every scream and tantrum from the blobbers will bring that possibility closer to him or a successor. Because no person with a functioning brain believes that banning the boiler earlier, rather than later, is a good thing. And so the blobbers are set to out themselves, for the duration of this controversy, as brainless ideological zombies. Long may it continue.
The Climate Act narrative is that climate change impacts are pervasive and catastrophic, the primary way to deal with them is not through practical adaptation measures but through policies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and the emission reduction strategies will be cheaper because wind and solar are “free.” I believe all those beliefs are flawed but have been discouraged because it seems that the media pushes the narrative so much that there is little hope that the net zero transition will be slowed down or stopped. However, the experience in Great Britain clearly shows the costs of the net-zero transition are enormous there and will be here too.
The Siena College Research Institute poll showed that despite the relentless climate threat propaganda, the public does not agree that there is an existential threat to society due to climate change. Most of the respondents to the poll thought that threats to the state’s environment were either a minor problem or not really a problem. Only 4% of respondents thought environmental threats was the most important issue for the Governor and Legislature to consider. Those results contradict the Climate Act existential threat narrative.
The only issue nearly all respondents responded to was the cost of living in New York and the highest percentage of respondents thought this was a major issue. This was also the highest ranked of the most important issues questions. It is obvious from the situation in Great Britain that renewable energy costs will increase the cost of living. This should make all New York politicians stop to think.
It is not unfair to ask the Hochul Administration to define what is unaffordable, what reliability risks are too great, and which environmental impacts are unacceptable. This poll offers some hope that if the potential costs are made clear that the politicians will consider pausing implementation until the costs are described completely, the reliability risks addressed, and a cumulative environmental impact assessment of the impacts of all the wind and solar developments that are estimated to be needed by the Scoping Plan is completed.
Roger Caiazza blogs on New York energy and environmental issues at Pragmatic Environmentalist of New York. This represents his opinion and not the opinion of any of his previous employers or any other company with which he has been associated.
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