With all the dire predictions about climate change in the news, it’s easy to start thinking that the problem is too large to even begin to untangle. But a new report released by the Urban Green Council, the New York Chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council, says otherwise. According to the study, entitled “90 by 50”, New York City could cut 90% of its carbon emissions by the year 2050 using technologies we have today and without breaking the bank.
New York has been working diligently towards its planNYC goal to reduce carbon emissions by 30% by 2030. But that number is not nearly enough according to recent studies that show that countries need to reduce emissions by 80% in order to combat global warming effectively. According to “90 by 50”, New York has a shot at reducing its carbon footprint by a whopping 90% largely by focusing on their biggest polluter – building energy consumption.
Seventy-five percent of the readily measured carbon emissions in New York City come from buildings and according to 90 by 50, here are three steps the city could take to reduce these emissions. The first is to eliminate the aging and inefficient steam heat system in buildings and replace it with electric heat. The second step is to power the electric heat with renewable sources. The third step focuses on energy efficiency and suggest ideas like requiring triple pane windows and limiting the amount of glass to only cover 50% of a building.
But New York has to do more than just decrease its building energy consumption to achieve a 90% reduction in emissions by 2050. Transportation accounts for 21% of the city’s total emissions. Electrification of buses along with an expansion of rail, both commuter and freight, would go a long way in reducing the pollution caused by transportation in New York.
And how much are all these measures supposed to cost over the next 37 years or so? It’s estimated that they will cost around $167 billion in today’s dollars, which works out to be around $5 billion a year. But the estimated energy savings are expected to yield upwards of $147 billion, netting a cost closer to $20 billion, which is a bargain if you consider that it cost $50 billion to clean up the damage from Hurricane Sandy.