Hot, Flat, and Crowded is essential reading
Thomas L. Friedman has hit many nails on the head in his analysis of what this country needs to do to deal with global warming, population growth, and the expansion of the world's middle class. This book is the current selection of the Arlington Democratic Town Committee Book Group. All are welcome to attend the discussion of Hot, Flat, and Crowded on Sun., Jan. 4, from 3 to 5 at Ken Larsen's house at 4 Frost Street. Please contact Ken at 648-5332 if you have any questions.
Here's my favorite review of what I feel is an essential-to-read book.
-- David Landskov
from Washington Post | September 7,2008
A Climate for Change
Tom Friedman says Americans can prosper by "outgreening" everyone else.
Reviewed by Joseph S. Nye Jr
Sunday, September 7, 2008; Page BW03
HOT, FLAT, AND CROWDED
Why We Need a Green Revolution -- And How It Can Renew America
Farrar Straus Giroux. 438 pp. $27.95
Like it or not, we need Tom Friedman.
The peripatetic columnist has made himself a major interpreter of the confusing world we inhabit. He travels to the farthest reaches, interviews everyone from peasants to chief executives and expresses big ideas in clear and memorable prose. While pettifogging academics (a select few of whom he favors) complain that his catchy phrases and anecdotes sometimes obscure deeper analysis, by and large Friedman gets the big issues right.
Almost a decade ago, in The Lexus and the Olive Tree, he celebrated the arrival of "globalization." Three years ago, in The World is Flat, he warned that borders, oceans and distance no longer protect us from the information revolution that is leveling the global economic playing field and relocating our jobs. Now he updates and expands this diagnosis by showing how population growth, climate change and the expansion of the world's middle class are producing a planet that is "hot, flat, and crowded." Unchecked, these trends will produce dangerous instability; but Friedman remains guardedly optimistic that we can stave off this nightmare, particularly if the United States changes its wasteful energy habits. In this important book, Friedman says we can survive, even prosper, by going green.
Of course, rousing a full-bellied nation, groggy from decades of energy overconsumption, is no small task. As the current election debate reminds us, the United States has proven inept at developing a serious energy strategy. Our approach, says one expert quoted by Friedman, is "the sum of all lobbies"; we have energy politics rather than energy policy. In the aftermath of 9/11, George W. Bush ignored calls by Friedman and others for a "USA Patriot Tax" of $1 per gallon on gasoline. Instead, the president offered tax cuts and urged us to shop. Rather than stimulating the economy to move toward fuel-efficient vehicles and renewable energy, we became more dependent on China to finance our deficit and Saudi Arabia to fill our gas tanks. Americans wound up paying even more for gas in 2008, but we enabled OPEC to be the tax collector instead of using the revenues ourselves. Friedman calls this a "No Mullah Left Behind" policy and quotes former CIA director Jim Woolsey: "We are funding the rope for the hanging of ourselves."
Friedman believes we need to become "green hawks," turning conservation and cleaner energy into a winning strategy in many different arenas, including the military. ("Nothing," he writes, "will make you a believer in distributed solar power faster than having responsibility for trucking fuel across Iraq.") We should stop defining our current era as "post-Cold War," he says, and see it as an "Energy-Climate Era" marked by five major problems: growing demand for scarcer supplies, massive transfer of wealth to petrodictators, disruptive climate change, poor have-nots falling behind, and an accelerating loss of bio-diversity. A green strategy is not simply about generating electric power, it is a new way of generating national power.
Incremental change will not be enough. The three-time Pulitzer Prize-winning writer for the New York Times scoffs at the kind of magazine articles that list "205 Easy Ways to Save the Earth." In the 1990s, global carbon dioxide emissions rose 1.1 percent annually, and many nations (not including the United States) signed the Kyoto Protocol to try to curb those emissions. But from 2000 to 2006, growth in CO2emissions tripled to 3 percent per year.
Friedman cites an estimate by Royal Dutch Shell that it typically takes 25 years for a new form of energy to capture 1 percent of the world market. Shell predicts that if we do things right, renewable energy will provide 30 percent of global needs by 2050, but fossil fuels will still provide 55 percent. Friedman says we need to do better than that. "Carbon neutral" is not ambitious enough; companies and institutions should seek a "carbon advantage" over rivals. This will require innovations in clean energy; greater energy efficiency (including the use of information technology to create smart grids and smart buildings); and a new ethic of conservation. Friedman argues that rather than costing too much, such initiatives can create investment opportunities, new jobs and global leadership for the U.S. economy. Here one wishes he had provided more evidence from some of the pettifogging academic economists.
Friedman is skeptical of treaties, and he argues that "a truly green America would be more valuable than fifty Kyoto Protocols. Emulation is always more effective than compulsion." He makes a good case that "outgreening" other countries would contribute to America's soft power as well as our hard power. "We are still the city on the hill for many Chinese," he notes, "even though they hate what we've done at times at the top of the hill." But the problem of China could overshadow what we do at home. In 2007, China surpassed the United States as the world's leading emitter of carbon dioxide. Chinese argue that on a per capita basis each of their citizens is responsible for only one-fifth the emissions of an American, and that developing countries should not have to cut back until they reach rich countries' CO2levels. This is a formula for global disaster. As Friedman says, "Mother Nature isn't into fair. All she knows is hard science and raw math."
China uses coal, a particularly CO2-intensive fuel, for 70 percent of its commercial energy supply, while coal accounts for a third of America's total energy. China builds more than one new coal-fired power plant each week. Coal is cheap and widely available in China, which is important as the country scrambles for energy resources to keep its many energy-intensive industries running. But Friedman does not deal with the issue of cleaner coal in China, and no amount of renewable energy in America will solve the problem. At the rate China is growing, a Chinese switch to renewables will come too late.
What can the United States do about this security threat? The bombs, bullets and embargos of traditional security policy are irrelevant. A 2007 report from the International Energy Agency urged a cooperative approach to helping China and India become more energy efficient. In other words, to promote our own security, the United States and other rich countries may have to forge a partnership with China, India and others to develop a full range of creative ideas, technologies and policies to prevent dangerous climate change. This requires a reframing of what we think of as national security and a more inclusive strategy than we have had in the past. If we finally move in that direction, Friedman will deserve some of the credit. ·
Joseph S. Nye Jr. is University Distinguished Service Professor at Harvard and author, most recently, of "The Powers to Lead."
- Climate Change News Dec 15, 2017 | 05:02 am Read more...
Climate Change News
Dec 14, 2017 | 19:53 pm
Abi-Samra has more than 35 years of experience in power generation, transmission, distribution, retail, and end-use energy applications. He is president of Electric Power & Energy Consulting and an adjunct professor with UC San Diego. He also is the author of a new book Power Grid Resiliency for Adverse Conditions (Artech House, 2017). The book is part technical reference guide and part history lesson. In it, Abi-Samra describes the impacts of heat waves, ice storms, and hurricanes on grid operations through case studies from North America, Europe, and Asia....Synchophasors measure the instantaneous voltage, current, and frequency at specific locations on the grid, offering operators a near-real-time picture of what’s happening on the system, which lets them take action to prevent power outages. Load shedding involves the short-term interruption of power to one or more end users to allow the grid to rebalance itself. Many industrial-scale power users trade off the occasional loss of power for lower power prices, known as “interruptible rates.” The early 2000s were also marked by hurricanes that hit Florida and Louisiana particularly hard. Widespread loss of transmission and distribution poles led to efforts to replace wooden poles with steel and concrete. Further hardening came after Hurricane Katrina devastated substations, leading to investments to elevate them above storm surge levels. Superstorm Sandy in 2012 exposed storm vulnerabilities in the Northeast, particularly the near-impossibility of insulating a system from damage in the face of fearsome winds and flooding. The idea that resulted from Sandy was to “allow the[…]Read more...
Climate Change News
Dec 14, 2017 | 19:43 pm
The emissions trading scheme will initially cover only the power sector, not heavy industry as planned, but will nonetheless become the biggest in the world. China’s long-awaited nationwide emissions trading scheme (ETS) will be officially launched on 19 December, starting with the power sector only, according to a document from National Development Reform Commission (NDRC). It represents a scaling back from the original plan for eight economic sectors to take part in the carbon market: petrochemicals, chemicals, building materials, iron and steel, non-ferrous metals, paper, power, and aviation. Nonetheless, it will instantly overtake the EU’s carbon market to become the world’s largest. The power sector accounts for 46% of China’s carbon dioxide emissions, of which an estimated 39% will be covered by the ETS, according to data from World Resource Institute. Explaining the change, Chinese officials said some industrial sectors did not have strong statistical foundations, and the system would involve constant testing and continuous adjustments. Carbon futures trading will not be available at the launch stage of the scheme, Xie Zhenhua, China’s special representative for climate change, said during the UN climate conference in Bonn last month. It is intended to create a cost for emitting carbon, not a platform for market speculation, he said. An official at NDRC who asked not to be named said the conservative approach reflected the importance leaders attached to the overall stability of the country’s financial markets. Read more at China to Launch Nationwide Carbon Market Next Week: OfficialsRead more...
Climate Change News
Dec 14, 2017 | 07:24 am
This week, Gatehouse Media published a long-form investigative report called “In the Shadow of Wind Farms” claiming that wind energy has caused negative health effects for residents living near wind turbines — a claim that flies in the face of actual science. GateHouse Media’s anti-wind article leans almost entirely on anecdotal evidence compiled during its six-month long project that included interviews with dozens of people who claim negative outcomes from living near wind farms. Meanwhile, in the realm of scientific facts, the American Wind Energy Alliance, the main trade group representing the wind power industry, points to 25 scientific reviews that document the safety of wind farms for human health and the environment. One health researcher has told DeSmog the GateHouse article was “simply irresponsible journalism” and actually had “potential to exacerbate the experience of anxiety and related health effects.” Although GateHouse, a syndication outfit that publishes 130 daily newspapers in 36 states, briefly mentions the fact that scientific evidence for these claims is nearly non-existent, it plows ahead with a lengthy article full of anecdotes and unsubstantiated claims that aren’t supported by real science. How this piece got published in its horribly one-sided (anti-wind) approach is a question worthy of many letters to the editor. Whether GateHouse — which is notoriously quiet when asked questions by other media outlets about its operations — will answer or attempt to defend this attack piece, time will tell. But there is no hiding that the anti-wind movement is clearly coordinated, which even[…]Read more...
Climate Change News
Dec 14, 2017 | 06:49 am
Approaching the second half of the century, the United States is likely to experience increases in the number of days with extreme heat, the frequency and duration of heat waves, and the length of the growing season. In response, it is anticipated that societal, agricultural and ecological needs will increase the demand on already-strained natural resources like water and energy. University of Illinois researchers have developed new, high-resolution climate models that may help policymakers mitigate these effects at a local level. In a paper published in the journal Earth's Future, atmospheric sciences professor Donald Wuebbles, graduate student Zach Zobel, and Argonne National Laboratory scientists Jiali Wang and Rao Kotamarthi demonstrate how increased-resolution modeling can improve future climate projections. Many climate models use a spatial resolution of hundreds of kilometers. This approach is suitable for global-scale models that run for centuries into the future, but they fail to capture small-scale land and weather features that influence local atmospheric events, the researchers said. "Our new models work at a spatial resolution of 12 km, allowing us to examine localized changes in the climate system across the continental U.S.," Wuebbles said. "It is the difference between being able to resolve something as small as Champaign County versus the entire state of Illinois -- it's a big improvement." The study looked at two different future greenhouse gas output projections -- one "business as usual" scenario where fossil fuel consumption remains on its current trajectory and one that implies a significant reduction in consumption by[…]Read more...
Climate Change News
Dec 14, 2017 | 05:10 am
The warming Arctic could put a serious dent in wind energy production. There’s a pretty steep temperature difference between the North Pole and the equator. But that difference — which fuels atmospheric energy, powering storm systems and the breeze — is shrinking, and it’s altering the distribution of wind energy resources around the globe. This could put significant strain on wind power production in the United States, Europe, and Asia, a study published Monday in the journal Nature suggests. The study shows that warming temperatures could result in a 17 percent drop in wind power in the U.S. and a 10 percent decline in the U.K. by 2100. On the upside, wind power in Australia, Brazil, and West Africa could actually increase. Read more at The Warming Arctic Could Put a Serious Dent in Wind Energy Production.Read more...
- Climate Change News Dec 14, 2017 | 04:50 am Read more...
Climate Change News
Dec 13, 2017 | 21:24 pm
“The floods of the future are likely to be much greater than what our current infrastructure is designed for”For the US, harder rain is on the way: America’s summer thunderstorms are about to get stormier. Later this century, the notorious mesoscale convective storms of middle America will not just darken US skies: they will dump as much as 80% more water on the farms, highways and cities of the 48 contiguous states. Mesoscale thunderstorms cover an area of around 100 kilometers: these have been on the increase, both in frequency and intensity, in the last 35 years and new research suggests that, as the world warms, their frequency could triple. “The combination of more intense rainfall and the spreading of heavy rainfall over larger areas means that we will face a higher flood risk than previously predicted,” said Andreas Prein, of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in the US, who led the study. “If a whole catchment area gets hammered by high rain rates, that creates a much more serious situation than a thunderstorm dropping intense rain over parts of the catchment. This implies that the flood guidelines which are used in planning and building infrastructure are probably too conservative.” Thunderstorms already cost the US around $20bn a year in flash floods, landslides, debris flows, high winds, and hail. Dr Prein and his colleagues report in Nature Climate Change that what they call “observed extreme daily precipitation” increased in all parts of the US from 1958 to 2012: that is[…]Read more...
Climate Change News
Dec 13, 2017 | 21:03 pm
Climate scientists say the magnitude and rate of sea ice loss this century is unprecedented in 1,500 years and issue a warning on the impacts of a changing climate. The Arctic experienced its second-warmest year on record in 2017, behind only 2016, and not even a cooler summer and fall could help the sea ice rebound, according to the latest Arctic Report Card. "This year's observations confirm that the Arctic shows no signs of returning to the reliably frozen state that it was in just a decade ago," said Jeremy Mathis, director of the Arctic program at National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which publishes the annual scientific assessment. "These changes will impact all of our lives," Mathis said. "They will mean living with more extreme weather events, paying higher food prices and dealing with the impacts of climate refugees." The sea ice in the Arctic has been declining this century at rates not seen in at least 1,500 years, and the region continued to warm this year at about twice the global average, according to the report. Temperatures were 1.6° Celsius above the historical average from 1981-2010 despite a lack of an El Nino, which brings warmer air to the Arctic, and despite summer and fall temperatures more in line with historical averages. Read more at Arctic Report Card: Lowest Sea Ice on Record, 2nd Warmest YearRead more...
Climate Change News
Dec 13, 2017 | 19:57 pm
Antarctic ice sheet models double the sea-level rise expected this century if global emissions of heat-trapping pollution remain high, according to a new study led by Dr. Robert Kopp of Rutgers University and co-authored by scientists at Climate Central. Global average sea level is expected to rise by one foot between 2000 and 2050 and by several more feet by the end of the century under a high-pollution scenario because of the effects of climate change, according to the projections in the new peer-reviewed study. It shows 21st century sea-level rise could be kept to less than two feet if greenhouse gas emissions are aggressively and immediately reduced, reflecting a larger gap in sea-level consequences between high and low emissions scenarios than previous research has indicated. The study provides a median projection for sea-level rise of 146 cm (4’9”) during the 21st century under a high-pollution scenario known as RCP8.5 (see Table 1), when results from new modeling of Antarctic ice sheet behavior are included. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s most recent report, published in 2014, which assumed the Antarctic ice sheet would remain stable, provided a median projection for the same scenario during a similar time period of 74 cm (2’5”). Previous efforts to project future sea levels have combined projections for future levels of greenhouse gas pollution with findings from research into the effects of that pollution in warming oceans and melting glaciers. Those efforts have either excluded the possibility of ice sheet break-ups on the margins[…]Read more...