This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

Trying to contain the fallout from Ron Sims’ decision last week not to support Prop. 1, Governor Gregoire says:

“Maybe (the measure) isn’t perfect. … I don’t care if it’s not perfect, we have got to move forward. And the last thing we need is to have the 1.2 million (people) that are coming into the Puget Sound area over the next decade, and leave the status quo. Want to talk global warming? That is a disaster.”

It’s a clever move, trying to pivot off of global warming, which, as Josh Feit argued, was the “one cogent moment” of Sims’ editorial.

But I think we need to step back for a moment and acknowledge that there are limits to what highway planning can and cannot do to halt global warming. The single largest cause of global warming is the burning of coal for electricity. Car and light truck emissions are just 20% of the total. More controversially, gridlock, too contributes to global warming. And though I’m not naive enough to believe that simply adding more lanes will end gridlock, adding HOV capacity to the 520 bridge will do far more good than harm in that regard.

(To be fair, transportation — including planes — accounts for over half the CO2 emissions in the Northwest specifically, but (a), that’s only because we get much of our electricity from hydro, and (b) because CO2 is only one of the gases that contribute to global warming)

So while I completely agree that denser, transit-oriented urban development is one key component to reversing climate change, it’s not the only one. Increasing fuel efficiency, reducing the use of coal-fired electricity plants, and somehow figuring out how to stop cows from passing gas are just three things that would do more to stop global warming than whether or not we pass Prop. 1 this November.

The Sierra Club and Ron Sims (both of whom I admire) would like to make this vote a referendum on global warming. It’s just not that simple.

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