Are We Garden-Variety Fucked, Or Are We Massively, Irrevocably, Royally Fucked?

Do pardon my French, but have you heard the latest on climate change and methane?

It’s been predicted for years, and now it’s happening. Deep in the Arctic Ocean, water warmed by climate change is forcing the release of methane from beneath the sea floor.

Or perhaps you didn’t catch this bit of news from MIT back in May?

The most comprehensive modeling yet carried out on the likelihood of how much hotter the Earth’s climate will get in this century shows that without rapid and massive action, the problem will be about twice as severe as previously estimated six years ago – and could be even worse than that.

Think geoengineering will save us?  Think again:

Even without global warming, reducing CO2 emissions is needed to do the best we can to save the ocean. The costs of this continuing damage to the planet, which geoengineering will do nothing to address, are ignored…

What has already been accurately called the gravest environmental threat ever faced by humanity becomes understood to be an even bigger threat on an almost daily basis.

This is why some people think the deep-bore tunnel is a spectacularly bad idea.  And this is also why those who are concerned about the threat of climate change should immediately get 100 percent behind Mike McGinn for Mayor of Seattle.

McGinn’s challenger Joe Mallahan gives all the expected generic lip service to climate change, but as far as I know has no record of being directly engaged in any of the relevant issues.  In contrast, McGinn has already demonstrated bold vision on climate change, not least with his consistent opposition to a 2-mile long greenhouse gas generator known as the deep-bore tunnel.

In 2007 McGinn helped lead the Seattle Chapter of the Sierra Club to oppose the “Roads and Transit” package because it funded massive road expansion that would have led to increased greenhouse gas emissions from cars, and also would have catalyzed the development of more car-dependent sprawl.   (The Sierra Club has a long history of research on the environmental impact of land-use patterns—check out their excellent Healthy Growth Calculator.)

Given the tough challenge from Mallahan that McGinn likely faces, I have a humble request for all of you out there who understand the critical importance of creating sustainable cities in order to combat climate change:  It’s time to stop all the typical liberal-style nit-picking and equivocating and get solidly united behind McGinn.  Now.  And all you enviros and alternative transportation advocates who endorsed Nickels, assuming you’re not down with Mallahan, it’s time to show your unqualified support for McGinn.  Now.  Please?

The City of Seattle—not to mention the entire country—desperately needs strong, visionary leadership on climate change.   Yes, McGinn is an unproven politician, but on my estimation, he has unmatched potential to emerge as powerful change agent, and to give Seattle the kick in the butt it needs to become better than just pretty good on climate change—to elevate Seattle to the position of international leader, rather than one of many among the pack of national leaders.   Bold political leadership on climate change is not coming from anywhere else in the State of Washington these days.  The Mayor may not have direct control over State highways or the Metro bus system, but change has to start somewhere.

And if McGinn is going to be accused of being a one-issue candidate, well, if that one issue is climate change we all should be grateful for it.

62 Responses to “Are We Garden-Variety Fucked, Or Are We Massively, Irrevocably, Royally Fucked?”

  1. Dave

    So uhhh Dan, you want to go get some McGinn yard signs with me after work sometime this week?

  2. Craig

    Wow, that’s one hell of a call to action, thanks Dan. You can sign up to join us at volunteer@mcginnformayor.com

  3. Ellery

    “And all you enviros and alternative transportation advocates who endorsed Nickels, assuming you’re not down with Mallahan, it’s time to show your unqualified support for McGinn. Now. Please?”

    I hope McGinn is making that pitch himself to those that endorsed Nickels, which is a substantial list of prominent folks, and not just relying on hugeasscity to do it for him.

  4. Lance

    Where can I get signs? I rent out an apartment above the Caffe Vita in Fremont that gets pretty good visual exposure.

  5. Tim

    Signs available at McGinn campaign HQ, 4000 Aurora Ave N., enter from south side along N. 40th St. at ground level. Contact: (206) 501-4275

  6. wes kirkman

    Craig/Tim, next time you guys are on capitol hill handing out some signs?

  7. Jason

    I am all for climate change, and I am totally on board for reducing out CO2… but I can’t bring myself to vote for McGinn, ever.

    I am in favor of the deep bore tunnel, and I feel that Seattle has to both make our city more beautiful, but also we need to increase our public transportation. Sitting in traffic hurts Seattle more than flying through downtown, and if you make that many cars sit on a surface street, rather than the efficiency of driving unabated through downtown, then you have to consider the tunnel a viable and, in the end, less costly option.

    I will vote based on this and this alone. Seattle can’t lose the tunnel like we lost the monorail.

  8. Ellery

    Hey there McGinn supporters, did you read this post? Yard signs aren’t going to beat Mallahan. McGinn has led an impressive grassroots campaign thus far, but he also beat a mayor who did a lot to help in his own defeat. The general will be another story, and to win, McGinn needs those enviro grasstops solidly in his camp, as Dan pleads.
    I endorsed Nickels in the primary, and will have no problem supporting McGinn in the general. But I am a small potato. I look at the list of Nickels endorsers and see some pretty prominent names there — Denis Hayes, Alan Durning, Cary Moon, Karen Daubert. These folks don’t just needs yard signs in their neighborhoods, they need to be telling their friends, members, constituents that they need to support McGinn too. They need to help raise money for McGinn. So I sure hope that McGinn reaches out to those folks. I’m sure the Mallahan campaign will.

  9. Ellery

    I bet Ed Murray will be giving a lot of those folks a call too.

  10. Lance

    thanks for the info Tim

  11. eldan

    @Jason: the tunnel will increase our GHG emissions. The Sightline Institute addressed the claim that increasing road capacity decreases pollution by reducing idling, and their findings were pretty damning:

    http://www.sightline.org/research/energy/res_pubs/climate-analysis-gge-new-lanes-10-07/

    In a nutshell: induced demand more than trumps the benefit from congestion reduction.

  12. Chris

    I’m stoked Ed Murray’s toss his hat in. He has experience with Olympia (obviously) and understands the politics and **compromise** that’s involved in transportation funding and planning in this state.

    Global warming is a critical concern. that said, this tunnel’s effect thereon is greatly exaggerated, IMHO. If one were to look at the total regional share of GHG produced by transportation (probably 50% +/- ?) and then figure out what percentage of that is comprised between the the delta between these two options (ie expansion of capacity for I-5 and Western/Alaska in the surface plan versus the 4-lane tunnel in the second), the overall difference is negligible.

    We should focus our political capital on much, much, bigger fish, such as our trade policies with China on a national level, and the focus on much better land use decisions (job/housing balance, connectivity of the street grids, etc, on a local level). We also need to increase the gas tax, and offset that with a reduction in sales tax, to help drive economic growth and discourage consumption of gas. the list could go on…..

    My big fear is that we are going to undermine the “big picture” -which is encouraging people to live closer to where they work (ie. in the center city/downtown), by imposing gridlock on the streets if and when the surface option is imposed. The only way “x” thousands of trips “disappear” is that the trip becomes so painful that many people elect not to take it. That’s a fine stance when we are talking about grade-separated thoroughfares. but when the gridlock occurs on city streets, that undermines the attractiveness of living downtown.

  13. J David

    Chris – There’s a fundamental flaw in your thinking about the tunnel. The issue, for me, is that the tunnel is going to gobble up all of our funding sources for transportation, making it very difficult to create the transit, walking, and biking infrastructure needed to create the communities you say we need (we do). The “big picture” is exactly what we lose when we spend all of our political and financial capital on a tunnel that doesn’t even stop downtown. It’s the height of all stupidity.

    What’s even more frustrating is the fact that WashDOT had checked off on a surface + transit option (which they wouldn’t have done if the option would have led to downtown gridlock) as had the vast majority of the Viaduct Stakeholder Group. Chopp and Gregoire balked, and in comes stalking an unexamined dark horse, the deep bore tunnel, courtesy of Tayloe Washburn and Bruce Agnew (he’s the guy that thinks we should teach Intelligent Design in schools). Never been built this big, 2% engineered, and likely cost overruns of 30%. And you still think we should do it? It makes no sense. It makes no sense (he says, with misty eyes, shaking his head at the folly of Seattlites).

  14. mark

    I’m glad to see some diversity of opinion here. (thank you Chris and Jason). Dan: If climate change is the sngle most important issue facing the Mayor of Seattle, then why were you so adamantly against Nickels? Nickels personally pushed for adoption of the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement back in 2005 and was poised as President of the U.S. Conference of Mayors to get cities to take further action. Now he’s out. If McGinn is elected, he will be a political neophyte and essentially powerless in that national group. Sure, McGinn will stop the tunnel, but he will be totally ineffective on the national stage where real change can occur.
    And dumping all that traffic from the viaduct onto surface streets downtown is not a solution to me. (full disclosure: I live downtown and walk to work. I sold my house in Magnolia a year ago and bought a very small condo to free myself of the car culture and minimize my carbon footprint.) But I am terrified of the prospect of tens of thousands of rerouted vehicles clogging downtown surface streets.
    So it’s Mallahan for me!

  15. Joshua Daniel Franklin

    Nationally transportation is about 28% of carbon emissions, but a whopping 60% in Seattle (that’s really mostly due to our clean electricity). Unfortunately even in Seattle transportation emissions are still growing as people drive longer distances. Maybe if we build more roads it will help?

    @mark: The argument here was that Mike McGinn is a more “visionary leader” than Nickels (Roads and Transit, Parks Levy, and of course the bored tunnel). Kudos on joining us walkers… but I have to ask, have you not noticed the tens of thousands of vehicles that already clog our nearly all “aterial road” downtown? Is Mallahan going to do something about that existing problem, or will it take $18/gal gas?

  16. Matt the Engineer

    I’m a Nickels supporter switching to McGinn. Something that’s going to be hard to get across to voters (even here on this blog) is the concept of induced demand. We are at a fairly stable state of traffic – we have plenty in the morning and afternoon. If you reduce this amount of traffic (note: not part of the tunnel plan), this encourages more people to drive. If you increase this amount of traffic (surface plan), this encourages more people to take the bus (or light rail, ferry, etc.). Either way you end up at a stable point roughly where we are now.

  17. heidi

    signs that will fill up landfills does not make me want to vote for a supposed green canidate.

    i am sick of having thousands of signs everywhere, like a sign with a name on it will convince me to vote for them.

  18. sway voter01

    I’m not a convinced Mcginn support but I’m coming around no help at all to this posting though.

    Dan, really, look at your sentence structure. Are you really saying people who supported Nichols have “unqualified” support? What makes the support of other candidates qualified and mine not? With words like that from supporters of McGinn it more likely will push them away.

    I like to research and I thank you for doing the leg work. My first results for looking up information on each candidate seems to be the same as yours. Each candidate’s website. What I found on McGinn’s was no position on The Environment. In fact he only has positions on three things. Mallahan, at least, for all the political-speak has writen openly about seven. More than twice the issues! Who is seeing the whole picture and who is playing republican politics attempting to polarize the voting public? A sad state is this election.

    Seriously. Really. Please?

  19. Peacemonger

    If McGinn is such an avid bike-rider, why is he still a cherry-faced fatso?

  20. gene

    Mark @ 14: I feel exactly the same way. Why anyone thinks dumping all that COMMERCIAL viaduct traffic onto city streets is a good thing for downtown livability is beyond me. You think people want to live in a downtown that has thousands of trucks rumbling through it all day? And a true environmentalist would advocate for improving downtown, our densest and most walkable neighborhoods. CO2 emmissions aren’t the issue here. Also, I haven’t owned a car in a decade, live downtown in a small apartment, bike/walk everywhere — so I really don’t want to be lectured to about environmentalism. I have no doubt my carbon footprint is a lot smaller than most of the commenters here.

  21. Zelbinian

    @gene, mark, others:

    Food for thought: 60-70% of Viaduct traffic – *including freight and commercial traffic* – exits downtown. I’m going to say that again, because so many of you inexplicably pro-tunnel environmentalists don’t seem to understand. 60-70% of Viaduct traffic exits downtown.

    The tunnel has no downtown exits. None.

    So. That means that after the tunnel is built (proverbially speaking), 60-70% of that traffic will go . . . where? That’s right. I-5, surface streets, and transit. But, as you say, we don’t have the infrastructure to tolerate that. Which means we’ll have to do the Surface/Transit/I-5 stuff anyway. On top of the costs for the tunnel. So, why don’t we just do that to begin with and forget the goddamned tunnel already?

    PS. *True* environmentalists don’t advocate for car infrastructure. Ever. Cars are largely what got us into this mess, and they will certainly not be the way out. There will always be a place for responsible personal transportation, but it needs to be greatly reduced.

  22. Zelbinian

    One last thing: all you people who count McGinn as a political “neophyte” and then rally behind Mallahan are in for one hell of a surprise.

    Have you people actually read The Seattle Times endorsement of Mallahan? I think it qualifies as The Worst Backhanded Compliment of the Year.

    For those of you who didn’t read it then and won’t read it now, the money quote:

    “For the primary, voters should back … Joe Mallahan, a T-mobile executive yet to demonstrate why he should hold the city’s top job.”

  23. Joshua Daniel Franklin

    Despite the headlines, this race is not about one issue.
    Forget about the tunnel for a moment and look at which candidate is advocating for improvements to livability, implementing the Bike and Pedestrian Master Plans, and creating more open space.

    It’s fair enough to think the tunnel will turn out OK (even though I disagree), but as far as I can tell only one candidate is making livability improvements to the city a priority.

  24. Joe G

    Brava!! Well put. Its funny to watch people scramble when they are challenged to put action behind their words. McGinn is exactly what Seattle needs! It is really our only chance. We have eight, hell, even four years of Mallahan, that will put us just that much farther behind the rest of the world. It’s no longer about “what always has been”, but its about the scary, terrifying, “what can be”.

  25. Bill B

    Shorter Dan Bertolet:

    “Vote for McGinn ’cause he’ll stop global climate change!”

  26. gene

    Zelbinian – so the tunnel would mean burying 30-40% of commercial traffic underground that is now on the Viaduct and not exiting downtown? In addition to all the car traffic that is not exiting downtown? Great. Sign me up and let’s make am much more live-able downtown.

    By the way, I don’t care what your definition of a “true environmentalist” is, and personally I think it’s bs.

  27. Joshua Daniel Franklin

    Gene, WSDOT’s AWV Industrial Centers Survey revealed that a small percentage of viaduct traffic is commercial and that “the businesses surveyed recognize commuter solutions to driving alone have the best chance of reducing congestion”.

  28. gene

    I just looked at that survey. It was a survey of 35 businesses. I didn’t see anything in there about the percentage of traffic on the Viaduct that is commercial. How could a survey of a handful of local businesses estimate the percentage of Viaduct traffic that is commercial? It is my understanding that there is quite a lot of commercial traffic on the Viaduct.

  29. Joshua Daniel Franklin

    Sorry, the percentages are in the SDOT Freight Segmentation Report. Check out pages 8 and 18 (PDF numbering, the pages are labeled 4 and 14).

    It’s about 4.8% of total traffic. Much more of the traffic uses I-5, which McGinn wants to improve by closing the Convention Center exit.

  30. gene

    Thanks for that. I can’t really understand how many thousands of trucks those percentages correspond to.

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