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California shows what Real Climate Progress is

Returning greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 is the essential first step to avoiding catastrophic warming. California has agreed to do just that in “a compromise between Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Democratic legislators.”

This bipartisan effort is likely to be a model for other states. Of course, it should also be a model for the entire country, but, sadly, as ABC News explained, we have “a president who doesn’t acknowledge the virtually universal consensus among scientists that mankind is dangerously overheating its home planet.”

The big question is — How much is this going to cost Californians? An L. A. Times piece oversold the costs of action, I thought, but unlike most media coverage of the story, at least took the time to explain the enormous costs of inaction:

[T]emperatures in California would increase by 7 to 10 degrees by 2070, and heat waves in Los Angeles would become six to eight times more frequent…. Sierra Nevada snowpack, important to supplying water to Southern California, would decline by 73% to 90%.

PBS’s Newshour ran a more balanced story, though I was disappointed they gave so much time to David Montgomery of CRA, who rehashed the standard lines by Global Warming Deniers and Delayers that we must wait for “breakthrough” technologies or else the costs will be severe. Still, its worth listening to hear the compelling arguments of NRDC’s Dan Lashof.

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Interestingly, I did not see a single story explaining that Californians already use far less electricity — and far less polluting electricity — than other Americans without paying higher electricity bills. How California achieved that and why it means greenhouse gas emissions are likely to be far less costly than most people believe is a subject Climate Progress will focus on in later posts.