Editorial: Exactly what do you mean by ‘transformative’?

Exactly what do you mean by ‘transformative’?

An editorial commentary

What a grand week for the environment! The New York Mets and Colorado Rockies were snowed out of their May 20 game after half-a-foot fell on Denver. Meanwhile, here in Otsego County, people escaped sweltering late-July heat and humidity with a trip to Glimmerglass, despite the beach being closed until Memorial Day weekend. A tornado ripped through northern Michigan. And GasBuddy.com, that repository of weekly good news, tells us average gasoline prices in New York rose more than 17 cents per gallon last week, $1.86/gallon higher than one year ago.

Deny it if you must, but it all points to some kind of upside down climate difficulties. And as is its wont, New York’s state Legislature approved a “Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act” in 2019 to ‘take the global lead’ on all things climate change. Excuse us while we pat ourselves on the back and move on to the next thing that we can write a press release about!

This nobly-named statute created a 22-member Climate Action Council, whose ‘Scoping Plan’ – now under public review – lays the groundwork for 100% zero-emission electricity grid by 2040 and says “fossil fuel-emitting cars and appliances will no longer be sold after 2035.”

The plan has its detractors and supporters, and we urge readers to examine the Council’s Scoping Plan at climate.gov.ny to read it in full. The period of public comment remains open through June 10, 2022.

It’s a hefty read with laudable goals and conclusions – but we wonder if it ever will, or can, get up off the ground under the crushing weight of government-speak that fills its PowerPoint slides. Forget the 22 members named to the Council itself – there are advisory panels, a ‘Just Transition Working Group,’ and a ‘Climate Justice Working Group.’ Every person on every one of those sub-groups dutifully heads off to innumerable Zoom meetings where they say their piece – a piece that’s usually filled with clichés using a lot of words to say nothing.

Lofty statements might sound good but often either deliberately obfuscate reality or lend themselves to misinterpretation. The CLCPA’s ‘zero-emission’ mandate, for example, has a lot of people believing that New Yorkers will no longer be able to burn firewood – after all, if ‘zero’ means ‘zero’ and firewood emits, then so long to firewood, right? Not so fast, the state had to correct – we have no intention to come after firewood.

Then the Plan says “Necessary methane emissions mitigation in waste and agriculture will require transformative solutions.” “Transformative solutions” is one of those phrases that Albany loves to toss out there because it sounds fantastic. In this case, it prefaces a sentence they either mistakenly or deliberately do not complete, thus: “Massive diversion of organic waste from landfills and innovative manure management and animal feeding practices coupled with the capture of fugitive methane emissions”

No period, no punctuation; we wonder what may have come after that might have given a little more detail about these ‘transformative solutions.’ Sounds expensive.

Supporters say the cost of doing nothing far outweighs the cost of doing something now. Last weekend’s weather hints that may indeed be the case, but it would be enormously reassuring to know a few specifics rather than be patronized by an endless string of phrases constructed specifically to sound impressive rather than make an impression.

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