Sonoma County’s Community Climate Action Plan includes a number of solutions for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and moving away from dependence on fossil fuels.

The answers to the following three questions will influence our community decision about taking action:

  1. What scale of investment is required to implement the Plan?
  2. What will it cost if no action is taken to avert climate change?
  3. What benefits can we expect in reducing fossil fuel use?

What investment is required to implement the Plan?

The Plan estimates that it will require an investment of $3.5 to $4 billion over the next seven to ten years to implement the most powerful and effective solutions. This is not out of scale with other public works projects that have been undertaken at the County level, and the financing tools laid out in the Plan provide some elegant ways to overcome some of the barriers to paying for renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Boy on BikeWhat will it cost to do nothing?

According to the Proposed Scoping Plan pursuant to AB 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act (released by the California Air Resources Board in October 2008):
A key factor … is the potential cost of doing nothing. When these costs are taken into account, the benefits associated with implementing a comprehensive plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions become even clearer.

The Scoping Plan goes on to summarize a number of environmental and public health dangers that could arise if no action is taken. They include:

  • More smoggy days
  • Larger brush and forest fires
  • Loss of 90 percent of the Sierra snow pack
  • Sea level rising by more than 20 inches
  • Three to four times increase in heat wave days
  • Increased flood damage and flood control costs
  • Increased water scarcity and water supply costs
  • Substantial public health costs, primarily as a result of rising temperatures, affecting especially the elderly. More premature deaths from respiratory and heat-related causes and more hospital visits and days of illness
  • Increased concentrations and emissions of harmful pollutants
  • Disproportionate impact on low-income communities who lack the resources to adapt

One important factor specific to Wine Country is the impact that climate change could have on our wine industry. Even small shifts in temperature could affect the sensitive terroir of many of our grape varietals, causing a decline in this important industry.

Smart Train

“As the financial world’s uncertainty continues to be the cause of anxiety and fear about the future, this report provides hard evidence that energy efficiency and innovation can pave the way to economic security and growth.”

— F. Noel Perry, Next 10 founder

What benefits can we expect in reducing fossil fuel use?

While we do not have Sonoma County projections regarding expected economic and job creation benefits of greenhouse gas emission reductions, we can refer to statewide projections and studies that should mirror the gains we could expect in Sonoma County.

Economic Benefits

The AB 32 Proposed Scoping Plan summarized a number of economic benefits of reducing GHGs, including:

  • Increased economic production of $33 billion
  • Increased overall gross state product of $7 billion
  • Increased overall personal income by $16 billion
  • Increased per capita income of $200
  • Savings in energy costs of $400 to $500 per household annually
  • Savings for consumers from California’s existing clean car standards of over $12 billion

A UC Berkeley report released in October 2008 “Energy Efficiency, Innovation, and Job Creation in California,” projects more substantial benefits. Based on historical data and computer modeling, it finds that an energy efficiency improvement of just 1 percent per year will lead to an increase in the Gross State Product of approximately $76 billion.

Investment Opportunities and Job Creation

According to the AB 32 Proposed Scoping Plan, “Addressing climate change also provides a strong incentive for investment in California. Our leadership in environmental and energy efficiency policy has already helped attract a large and growing share of the nation’s venture capital investment in green technologies. Since AB 32 was signed into law, venture capital investment in California has skyrocketed. In the second quarter of 2008 alone, California dominated world investment in clean technology venture capital, receiving $800 million of the global total of $2 billion.”

“Our analysis provides solid evidence that California’s legacy of energy policy has grown the economy, created jobs and put billions of dollars into the pockets of consumers.”

— Professor David Roland-Holst, Center for Energy, Resources, and Economic Sustainability, UC Berkeley


The Scoping Plan projects an increase of at least 100,000 new green jobs. The UC Berkeley report estimates the creation of as many as 403,000 new jobs.

Improved Public Health

The Proposed Scoping Plan estimates that the public health benefits of improved air quality alone will amount to approximately $2.2 billion in savings. They also project the following additional benefits by 2020 as a direct result of reducing greenhouse gas emissions:

  • An estimated 400 premature deaths statewide will be avoided
  • Almost 11,000 incidences of asthma and lower respiratory symptoms will be avoided
  • 67,000 work loss days will be avoided
  • Reduced risks of coronary heart disease, diabetes, hypertension and obesity