Politics

Transportation and climate get hitched

Seattle-area voters tied the knot

In the Seattle metro region, voters just sank an $18 billion transportation megaproposal that would have built more than 180 lanes miles of highway and 50 miles of light rail. But so far, the mainstream press has missed one of the most important stories of the year. The real story isn't tax fatigue, it's this: perhaps for the first time ever in the U.S., a critical bloc of voters linked transportation choices to climate protection. In the run-up to the vote, a surprising amount of the debate centered on the package's climate implications. (The state has committed to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions to 50 percent below 1990 levels by 2050, and many cities, including Seattle, have been national leaders on climate.) The opposition argued global warming. So did the measure's supporters. If you don't believe me, see, among others, the Seattle P-I (yes), The Stranger (no), the Yes Campaign, the Sierra Club's No Campaign, the right-leaning Washington Policy Center (no), and even the anti-tax/rail No Campaign, which oddly enough kept trumpeting the Sierra Club's opposition as a primary reason to vote no. The turning point may have been when King County Executive Ron Sims suddenly withdrew his support. He cited the climate-warming emissions from added traffic as one of his chief objections -- he was thinking about his granddaughters, he said, not just the next five years. The funny thing was, there was a heap of confusion and disagreement over the proposal's true climate impacts, mainly because no one had conducted a full climate assessment of the measure. But climate clearly weighed as a factor for a critical bloc of voters on both sides of the issue. In fact, Prop 1 may be the last of its kind, at least in the Pacific Northwest: a transportation proposal that lacked a climate accounting. Obviously, there were more factors in play than just the climate. Taxes and traffic congestion mattered too. But what ultimately may have tipped that scales is that Puget Sound voters are reluctant to expand roads because they lock us into decades of increased climate pollution. It's pretty well accepted that Seattle-area voters are receptive to environmental messages -- and in this case there were smart and well-informed greens on both sides of the debate. But green or not, the biggest problem for a certain segment of voters may have been that there was no comprehensive accounting of the climate impacts of the project -- one that included the roads, the rail, and the probable effects on land use. So what's the lesson?

Permits for me but not for thee

Max Baucus wrangles a sweet deal for Montana rural co-ops in the Lieberman-Warner bill

One bit of shenanigans that went on in the backroom negotiations over Lieberman-Warner was the effort by Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) to exempt his state’s …

Who are you calling sensible, punk?

Hillary Clinton struggles to explain away her previous opposition to corn ethanol

Over the years, Hillary Clinton has voted against subsidies and mandates for corn ethanol in the Senate a number of times. If you know anything …

The political climate is changing: Part II

How should the presidential candidates convey the issue of climate change to the public?

This post is by ClimateProgress guest blogger Bill Becker, Executive Director of the Presidential Climate Action Project. ----- We've seen in Part I that the political climate is changing. How should presidential candidates talk about climate in the 2008 campaign? My advice to the candidates is to love the global warming deniers and delayers to death and to handle the economic issue head-on. Invite them into constructive discussion. Elevate the dialogue. Emphasize without stopping or deviation that climate change is not a partisan issue, and it should not be a political issue. Talk about the massive new global markets awaiting innovative American technologies, about climate change as the next great challenge for the nation's genius, about how tackling climate change is our path to security and prosperity in the 21st century. It happens to be the truth. Follow Barack Obama's example of truth-telling. He had the guts earlier this year to tell the Detroit Economic Club that we need to raise CAFE standards. He won praise from Time columnist Joe Klein this week for refusing to pander to voters. Klein spent a day with Obama in Iowa and watched him handle a question about global warming. Obama talked about the need for a cap-and-trade regime to reduce carbon emissions, then said: "One of the themes of this campaign is to tell voters what they need to hear, not just what they want to hear ... So I've got to tell you there will be a cost to this -- and the utility companies will pass it along to consumers. You can expect a spike in electricity prices." Then he added the critical message: new technologies will eventually bring prices back down. Obama also could have said this:

Lieberman introduces bill to designate Arctic Refuge as wilderness

Part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge would be designated as wilderness under legislation introduced today by Sen. Joe Lieberman and 25 colleagues. Wilderness designation …

John Edwards

A call for moral boldness (and decentralized grids!)

Over at Rolling Stone‘s blog, Tim Dickinson says of this video: It just may change your opinion about John Edwards — in particular about how …

Climate change and Pakistan's priorities

Climate change mitigation is related to building democracy and decreasing poverty

While the climate change "issue" is covered frequently in the press and is implicitly or explicitly part of the U.S. presidential campaign, for developing countries it is just one of many pressing issues. For the man on the street, at least in many of the countries I visit, climate change is important but not urgent. The same could be said of many other issues, of course, but what distinguishes climate change is that it is perceived as "an act of God" on which individual actions have only minimal impact. Unless it is linked to issues of social justice, energy security, economic growth, and the aspirations of a growing middle class in developing countries, support for action on climate change will remain pegged to the fortunes and attention of environmental liberals in the developed North. While on a recent trip to Pakistan, shortly after the Nobel Committee's Peace Prize announcement, I asked several people, "What do you think of Al Gore and the climate change issue winning the Nobel Peace Prize?" or alternatively, "What do you think climate change means for you and Pakistan?" Even to me these questions seemed ridiculous given what's going on in Pakistan -- especially the events of the past week, whenpa a U.S.-sponsored general showed what kind of friend he is to democracy. Answers ranged widely, from a sophisticated intellectual who had attended a viewing of Al Gore's film as part of a film discussion club, to people who had heard of Clinton but not Al Gore, to a few who said they had never heard of climate change. I looked in vain for any mention of climate change in the opinion pages of local newspapers, and while there was vibrant debate over important international issues (e.g., the nature of democracy, government ineptitude, pollution, poverty, the U.S. playing kingmaker, and energy shortages), there was nothing on climate policy. (Aside, that is, from glowing mention in a few blogs of the fact that one Pakistani national, Professor Adil Najam at Tufts University in the U.S., is a member of the IPCC and thus partial recipient of the Nobel Prize -- read his blog here.)

Match-O-Matic, make me a match

A handy tool to find your ideal presidential candidate

I’ve got my ’08 candidate all picked out, but if your chad’s still hangin’ (so to speak), try out this handy tool to match you …

Asbestos legislation watered down, disappointing activists

Public-health advocates who in June praised legislation to ban asbestos now say the version passed by the Senate last month was watered down so significantly …