How do you return greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 while promoting jobs, competitiveness, and public health? Conservatives in the U.S. Senate think it can’t be done. California knows it can.

The Air Resources Board has just published their “Scoping Plan.” How do they cut 169 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent by 2020? Efficiency, efficiency, renewables, renewables, and even some conservation:

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Given that the single biggest source of California’s GHG emissions is transportation, surging oil prices will make it that much easier for them to achieve this target and increase the savings for California consumers and businesses.

Unlike U.S. Senate conservatives, Californians understand that the multiple benefits of action — and the cost of inaction — greatly exceed the costs of action:

California has a long and successful track record of implementing environmental policies that also deliver economic benefits … the overall savings from improved efficiency and developing alternatives to petroleum will, on the whole, outweigh the costs. This balance is largely driven by current high energy costs and the degree to which measures increase energy efficiency throughout the economy and move California toward ultimately cheaper alternatives to fossil fuels …

The potential costs of implementing the Plan pale beside the cost of doing nothing. Looking globally, the Stern Review issued by the Treasury of the United Kingdom estimated that ” … if we don’t act, the overall costs and risks of climate change will be equivalent to losing at least five percent of global [gross domestic product (GDP)] each year, now and forever. If a wider range of risks and impacts is taken into account, the estimates of damage could rise to 20 percent of GDP or more. In contrast, the costs of action — reducing greenhouse gas emissions to avoid the worst impacts of climate change — can be limited to around one percent of global GDP each year.”

And again, this “cost” is not a net loss of 1 percent of GDP, but a shift in spending, which has multiple benefits:

The Plan will also provide a wide range of public health and environmental benefits anticipated from reducing greenhouse gases. Preliminary analysis indicates that the total economic value associated with public health benefits is likely to be on the order of $2 billion in 2020. The estimated reduction of combustion-generated soot (PM 2.5) associated with the recommended regulatory measures is 10 tons per day, and the estimated reduction of oxides of nitrogen (a precursor to smog) total 50 tons per day. These reductions in harmful air pollution lead to the following estimated health benefits in 2020:

· 340 fewer premature deaths
· 9,400 fewer cases of asthma-related and other lower respiratory symptoms
· 780 fewer cases of acute bronchitis
· 57,000 fewer work days lost
· 330,000 fewer restricted activity days

Kudos to the state of California.

This post was created for ClimateProgress.org, a project of the Center for American Progress Action Fund.