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
Aug 21, 2017 | 07:24 am
But if the Republican Party is undergoing a shift on climate, it is at its earliest, most incremental stage. While President Donald Trump continues to dismantle Obama-era climate policies, an unlikely surge of Republican lawmakers has begun taking steps to distance themselves from the GOP’s hard line on climate change. The House Climate Solutions Caucus, a bipartisan backwater when it formed early last year, has more than tripled in size since January, driven in part by Trump’s decision in June to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate accord. And last month, 46 Republicans joined Democrats to defeat an amendment to the annual defense authorization bill that would have deleted a requirement that the Defense Department prepare for the effects of climate change. The willingness of some Republicans to buck their party on climate change could help burnish their moderate credentials ahead of the 2018 elections. Of the 26 Republican caucus members, all but five represent districts targeted by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee next year. But it has also buoyed activists who view the House members’ positioning as a rare sign of GOP movement on climate change. “Strangely, President Trump helped us,” said Bob Inglis, a former Republican congressman whose views on climate change contributed to his defeat in a South Carolina primary in 2010. “His withdrawal from Paris dramatically increased the number of [internet] searches about climate change and increased interest … People are getting more and more uncomfortable with the nuttiness of these positions.” In a[…]Read more...
Climate Change News
Aug 21, 2017 | 07:13 am
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- Climate Change News Aug 21, 2017 | 05:07 am Read more...
Climate Change News
Aug 21, 2017 | 05:05 am
It had a good run. But the end is in sight for the machine that changed the world. The internal combustion engine's days are numbered. Rapid gains in battery technology favor electric motors instead. ... The Chevy Bolt has a range of 238 miles (383km); Tesla fans recently drove a Model S more than 621 miles (1,000km) on a single charge. UBS, a bank, reckons the “total cost of ownership” of an electric car will reach parity with a petrol one next year—albeit at a loss to its manufacturer. It optimistically predicts electric vehicles will make up 14% of global car sales by 2025, up from 1% today. Others have more modest forecasts, but are hurriedly revising them upwards as batteries get cheaper and better—the cost per kilowatt-hour has fallen from $1,000 in 2010 to $130-200 today. Regulations are tightening, too. Last month Britain joined a lengthening list of electric-only countries, saying that all new cars must be zero-emission by 2050.The shift from fuel and pistons to batteries and electric motors is unlikely to take that long. The first death rattles of the internal combustion engine are already reverberating around the world—and many of the consequences will be welcome. To gauge what lies ahead, think how the internal combustion engine has shaped modern life. The rich world was rebuilt for motor vehicles, with huge investments in road networks and the invention of suburbia, along with shopping malls and drive-through restaurants. Roughly 85% of American workers commute by car. Car making[…]Read more...
Climate Change News
Aug 20, 2017 | 06:08 am
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Climate Change News
Aug 20, 2017 | 04:28 am
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- Climate Change News Aug 20, 2017 | 04:15 am Read more...
Climate Change News
Aug 19, 2017 | 10:15 am
Before 2005 US carbon emissions were marching upwards year after year, with little sign of slowing down. After this point, they fell quickly, declining 14% from their peak by the end of 2016. Researchers have given a number of different reasons for this marked turnaround. Some have argued that it was mainly due to natural gas and, to a lesser extent, wind both replacing coal for generating electricity. Others have suggested that the declines were driven by the financial crisis and its lasting effects on the economy. Here Carbon Brief presents an analysis of the causes of the decline in US CO2 since 2005. There is no single cause of reductions. Rather, they were driven by a number of factors, including a large-scale transition from coal to gas, a large increase in wind power, a reduction in industrial energy use, and changes in transport patterns. Declines in US CO2 have persisted despite an economic recovery from the financial crisis. While the pace of reductions may slow, many of these factors will continue to push down emissions, notwithstanding the inclinations of the current administration. Carbon Brief’s analysis shows that in 2016…Overall, CO2 emissions were around 18% lower than they would have been, if underlying factors had not changed, and 14% lower than their 2005 peak.Coal-to-gas switching in the power sector is the largest driver, accounting for 33% of the emissions reduction in 2016.*Wind generation was responsible for 19% of the emissions reduction.Solar power was responsible for 3%.Reduced electricity use – mostly[…]Read more...
Climate Change News
Aug 19, 2017 | 09:48 am
With a sweeping overhaul of the tax code on the horizon, two Senate Democrats believe this is the moment to broach the third rail of climate change policy: a carbon tax. The plan by the senators, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and Brian Schatz of Hawaii, to level a $49 per metric ton fee on greenhouse gas emissions is widely acknowledged as a long shot. But the lawmakers, along with climate activists and a cadre of conservative supporters, insist the tax reform is a way to create bipartisan support. The senators propose to use a portion of the estimated $2.1 trillion they anticipate in carbon tax revenue over the first 10 years to reduce the top marginal corporate tax income rate, something the White House has called for. They also hope to have an ally in President Trump’s economic adviser, Gary D. Cohn, who met in February with a prominent group of Republicans advocating a similar plan. No Republican lawmaker has signed on to the Senate measure. Mr. Trump, who routinely proclaims his affection for coal, during the presidential campaign flatly rejected via Twitter a suggestion that he might put a price on carbon pollution. The senators steering the effort admit they haven’t even broached a carbon tax directly with members of the administration, and the White House has distanced itself from the policy via Twitter a suggestion that he might put a price on carbon pollution. The senators steering the effort admit they haven’t even broached a carbon tax[…]Read more...
Climate Change News
Aug 19, 2017 | 09:00 am
Not getting sick and dying from pollution is worth quite a bit, it turns out. Wind and solar power are subsidized by just about every major country in the world, either directly or indirectly through tax breaks, mandates, and regulations. The main rationale for these subsidies is that wind and solar produce, to use the economic term of art, “positive externalities” — benefits to society that are not captured in their market price. Specifically, wind and solar power reduce pollution, which reduces sickness, missed work days, and early deaths. Every wind farm or solar field displaces some other form of power generation (usually coal or natural gas) that would have polluted more. Subsidies for renewables are meant to remedy this market failure, to make the market value of renewables more accurately reflect their total social value. This raises an obvious question: Are renewable energy subsidies doing the job? That is to say, are they accurately reflecting the size and nature of the positive externalities? That turns out to be a devilishly difficult question to answer. Quantifying renewable energy’s health and environmental benefits is super, super complicated. Happily, researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley Lab have just produced the most comprehensive attempt to date. It contains all kinds of food for thought, both in its numbers and its uncertainties. (Quick side note: Just about every country in the world also subsidizes fossil fuels. Globally, fossil fuels receive far more subsidies than renewables, despite the lack of any policy rationale whatsoever for such[…]Read more...