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Thursday, February 22, 2007

Seattle’s Enviro Scorecard: Not Bad, But More to Do

posted by on February 22 at 13:51 PM

The Earth Day Network has done a comprehensive “urban environment” scorecard, ranking 72 cities by factors such as air and water quality, toxic chemicals, availability of recreation, and response to global warming. Out of the cities ranked, Seattle scored an impressive No. 7.

Among the highlights:

•13.5 percent of our population is considered “more vulnerable” to the effects of environmental degradation, due to diabetes (5.27 percent), lack of health insurance (13.4 percent), adult obesity (18.9) adult asthma (9.33 percent) and other factors.

• Seattle scored relatively low on toxics because our air and water contain high levels of neurologically damaging chemicals and dioxins; we have a large number of Superfund cleanup sites; and we have a poor record of lowering the amount of waste we send to landfills and convert to energy. However, our air and water quality were far superior to most of the most cities surveyed.

• Our vaunted “quality of life” ranked smack in the middle of the scale, with the worst scores for population and housing density, use of public transit, travel time to work, car ownership, and wasted fuel. Our overall cost of living also ranked poorly .

• Seattle scored lowest in the area of global warming, where we got props for committing to meet Kyoto standards but have shown little progress at the local level actually doing so. We’re doing a poor job creating greenhouse gas emission reduction programs; reporting greenhouse gas emissions; creating new renewable power sources; and metering utilities. (A lot of Seattle’s low score can be attributed, however, to geography; we lost points for having minimal wind and sunshine, and for being right at sea level).

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San Francisco down below Kansas City at #28. Not suprising really, we do kinda suck in some ways. Also not suprising to see Portland close to the top. #7 is pretty dang good Seattle, but with the wealth in the area, too bad* you ain't closer to the top.

* By too bad, I mean "yeah, I get how government works, I'm just saying..."

Posted by Dougsf | February 22, 2007 2:01 PM

I blame our car-oriented development and lack of major transit growth (no, ST II won't cut it) for our low global warming score. That and the Seattle Process.

Posted by Will in Seattle | February 22, 2007 2:20 PM

It's true, as much as people talk about SF's great transit - and they do have something to talk about; there are loads of transit options there - people seem really, really attached to their cars there. Blows me away every time I visit.

Posted by Levislade | February 22, 2007 2:23 PM

A closer look suggests a number of issues out of the city's hands that would affect our ranking -- most notably in Climate Change. First off, EDN understates the population by about 40,000 people (536,000 vs. 578,700). Given that many of the scores are "per capita" it sort of depresses some of our scores. Second, contrary to what Erica says, the scorecard looks at the state's greenhouse gas inventory and finds it lacking -- not the city's. They city has actually done a really comprehensive inventory and it is updated every two years. But Erica thinks the city's efforts are crap, so it figures that she would leave that fact out. Indeed, many of the low scores in the global warming section refer to the state, not the city. Finally, the city's other big losers in this global warming section are based on environmental factors beyond our control. Things like average percent of possible sunshine, average windspeed in January and July and elevation in feet.

Oh yeah, our quality of life. Yes were were in the middle of the scale, but we ranked 5 overall compared to the 72 other cities.

Posted by Ahab | February 22, 2007 2:50 PM

I'm suprised how many San Franciscan's own cars as well, but more than that, this city is home to many very poor and underinsured people (one of the criteria), as well as some very old and dirty powerplants within the city.

Posted by Dougsf | February 22, 2007 3:02 PM

I wonder how we scored to, say, Tokyo?
If it is higher then surely we must end sprawl. Everyone in Seattle hope your prepared for a Neo -Tokyo shift in thinking. San Francisco was ahead of us on that, but I think Seattle Bay activities are occasionally cleaned by the fresh cold waters of the Ocean. Or maybe its just washing out to Sea. Are we sending our pollution in the Water and that has also to do with the warming of the Seas? Will Tokyos water slog monster defeat our air slog monster? or is there air and our water? Whos coast will it reach first? Like a bottle in the Sea. enuff. I'm starting to sound like that Batman t.v. show anouncer.

Posted by DreadLion | February 22, 2007 3:12 PM

I hate city rankings. They all rank different things and are totally inconsistant.

For example, Seattle has a serious air quality problem that is largely un-reported and un-addressed. I mean, now does the ranking jib with this:

Posted by boo | February 22, 2007 3:30 PM

I suggest that every project include a carbon footprint category. The tunnel is the worst of all the choices for AW as it requires 24/7 energy consumption that none of the other options have and we waste hundreds of millions of dollars that could be used for global cooling efforts.

Posted by Peter Sherwin | February 22, 2007 3:36 PM

Christ Erica, Seattle gets 7th out of 72, and your "highlights" consist of nothing but lowlights.

You're just never fucking satisfied, are you??? (I love that about you, actually)

Posted by Matthew | February 22, 2007 4:37 PM

To the critics of the population number, they probably used 2000 census data.

Posted by Will in Seattle | February 22, 2007 4:55 PM

I wouldn't be too impressed by our ranking. This study has a totally arbitrary methodology. No study with 'environmental' in the title that ranks Phoenix, AZ the number 1 very large city and Fargo, ND number 1 overall is credible.

Posted by Some Jerk | February 22, 2007 7:02 PM

Another fine example of the quality of Erica's "journalism."

"Our vaunted “quality of life” ranked smack in the middle of the scale"

Wow...that's a misleading statement. While it's true that the score of 2.5 is exactly half of 5, all of the other scores are also less than 3 (i.e. - they're all about "smack in the middle of the scale). Seattle's quality of life score was the 5th highest of the 72 cities studied.

"with the worst scores for population and housing density, use of public transit, travel time to work, car ownership, and wasted fuel."

That's flat out incorrect (3's in all of those categories). Did you actually look at the scores Erica, or just make up what you wanted to say despite what the report concluded?

Posted by daytrpr | February 22, 2007 7:03 PM

#3 Thats because they like to drive up and down the coast. Its a tradition. Hitchhiking is so 60s and its dangerous these days. And walking or biking down 101 south is cool, if you want to get creamed. And packing a surfboard on your back while trying to make it out to Northshores is no fun either.

Posted by DreadLion | February 22, 2007 10:51 PM

oh and I will get rid of my car as soon as soldiers get rid of Tanks. I don't want to stick around when some citys under siege and tanks rolling after you is no fun. Government would shut down mass transit with the quickness in an emergency. At least with a car you can get the hell out of dodge in a hurry. Its like an faithful Horse. Mass transit is cool, but city folk do like to have something to escape with once in awhile. Motorcycles even better.

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