Sustainable Arlington

Arlington Vision 2020 Committee/Mass. Climate Action Network (MCAN) Chapter

Search

landskov

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

By Thomas L. Friedman

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."

 

  • House Republicans OK Measure Asking Military to Study Climate Change

    Climate Change News Jun 29, 2017 | 07:15 am

    House Republicans OK Measure Asking Military to Study Climate Change A year ago, the U.S. House tried to block the military from preparing for climate change. Now, several GOP members have voted to support studying the security risks. The Republican-led House Armed Services Committee took a quietly momentous step Wednesday by passing an amendment requesting a Defense Department report on the security risks posed by climate change. The importance lies less in the details of the measure—an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act—than in the political statement from a body that only one year ago tried to block the military from spending money to prepare for climate change. "The truth is that the department can study this on their own, as they have a wide berth when it comes to assessing threats to national security," said Rep. Jim Langevin, a Democrat from Rhode Island and the amendment's sponsor.  "But this amendment shows that Congress has the department's back.  It signals that we are not naive to the dangers of climate change to our defense strategy." The amendment asks the Defense Department to issue a report within a year identifying the 10 military sites most vulnerable to the many manifestations of climate change, and what steps are needed to protect them.  It also asks for a discussion of how climate change will affect top commanders of fielded forces who may have to deal with instability brought on by a climate crisis. The military has conducted extensive studies on the risks and impacts of climate change to its operations for more[…]

    Read more...
  • Half a Loaf:  Lawmakers Vote to Keep Some Energy Funds Trump Would Cut

    Climate Change News Jun 29, 2017 | 06:30 am

    Half a Loaf:  Lawmakers Vote to Keep Some Energy Funds Trump Would Cut The House subcommittee’s bill would still kill ARPA-E but restores some funding for science and renewable energy. Budget writers in the House of Representatives said Wednesday they were willing to support some cuts to renewable energy and energy efficiency programs, but they wouldn't approve all of President Donald Trump's proposed deep slashes to the Department of Energy's budget. The House Appropriations energy subcommittee met to mark up their bill for funding the department.  The bill represents the first time Congressional purse-string holders have formally clarified their priorities and is the first step in a long process, but it suggests that Republicans will support many of Trump's cuts to clean energy. Trump's proposal, released last month, calls for cutting the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, or ARPA-E—the government's incubator for clean energy technologies—by 93 percent.  The House spending bill allocates nothing. The draft bill endorsed by the subcommittee sets the overall agency budget at $37.6 billion, giving it about $209 million less than in fiscal 2017, but $3.65 billion above Trump's request, according to Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), the subcommittee's chairman.  The bill would have to be approved by the full Appropriations panel before going to the House floor and also would have to be reconciled with any action by the Senate. "Increases over last year are targeted to those areas where they are needed most—-to provide for our nation's defense and to support our nation's infrastructure," Simpson said.  "The bill recognizes the administration's effort to reduce federal spending and the size[…]

    Read more...
  • Mission 2020:  A New Global Strategy to ‘Rapidly’ Reduce Carbon Emissions

    Climate Change News Jun 29, 2017 | 05:45 am

    Mission 2020:  A New Global Strategy to ‘Rapidly’ Reduce Carbon Emissions In April a new global initiative called Mission 2020 was launched by Christiana Figueres, the former UN climate chief who oversaw the signing of the Paris Agreement on climate change in late 2015. The aim of Mission 2020 is to bring “new urgency” to the “global climate conversation” with a call to begin “rapidly declining” global greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. Today, in a co-authored commentary published in the journal Nature, Figueres sets out further details about Mission 2020’s six central calls to action.  The commentary is endorsed by 61 signatories, which include climate scientists as well as a range of NGO, religious, political, and business leaders. Emissions peakFigueres and colleagues argue that, if global warming is to be limited to between 1.5C and 2C by 2100, global emissions must peak before 2020 and then begin to rapidly decline. Over the past three years, global CO2 emissions have leveled off, driven in part by large declines in coal use in China and the US.  While it is likely too early to say for certain if CO2 emissions have peaked, there is a reason to be cautiously optimistic. However, peaking global emissions is in many ways the easy part.  Scientists say that to stave off potentially dangerous levels of warming later in the century, global emissions need to decline quickly to near-zero. Read more at Mission 2020:  A New Global Strategy to ‘Rapidly’ Reduce Carbon Emissions

    Read more...
  • Concurrent Hot and Dry Summers More Common in Future

    Climate Change News Jun 29, 2017 | 05:00 am

    Concurrent Hot and Dry Summers More Common in Future According to ... statistics ... extreme climate events, similar to the heatwave that affected large areas of western and central Europe in the summer of 2003, are only supposed to occur around every 100 years.  But as global warming pushes average temperatures higher, the frequency of several extreme weather events is set to increase, experts claim.Concurrent extremes more frequentPerhaps the statisticians need to check their figures.  Researchers have traditionally studied extreme climate events such as heatwaves and drought in isolation, producing separate forecasts of how frequently each one is likely to occur.  But when these extremes coincide -- a combination of hot and dry summers, for example -- their impact is far greater.ETH researcher Jakob Zscheischler and Professor Sonia Seneviratne from the ETH Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science have now calculated the probability of compound climate extremes, as the co-occurrence of severe heat and drought generally depends on the correlation between temperature and precipitation in the summer.  The results of their study have just been published in the academic journal Science Advances.Co-occurrence as much as five times greater than expectedIn their study, Zscheischler and Seneviratne have calculated that the combination of heat and drought is as much as two to four times more frequent than if these two extreme climate events are studied in isolation.  In America's mid-west, for instance, the probability of this combination occurring is even up to five times higher.Calculating the probability of these two extremes separately and then combining them is not the same as[…]

    Read more...
  • Sunnier Skies Driving Greenland Surface Melt

    Climate Change News Jun 29, 2017 | 04:15 am

    Sunnier Skies Driving Greenland Surface Melt In the past two decades, the Greenland ice sheet has become the biggest single contributor to rising sea levels, mostly from melt across its vast surface.  That surface melt is, in turn, driven mostly by an uptick in clear, sunny summer skies, not just rising air temperatures, a new study finds. What’s causing the decline in cloud cover isn’t yet clear, but the work shows that understanding what’s behind the trend and developing ways to better represent clouds in global climate models will be crucial to predicting how much Greenland will melt in the future. The nearly two-mile-thick Greenland ice sheet covers an area about three times the size of Texas and holds enough ice to raise global sea levels by 23 feet if it were all to melt.  While that is unlikely to happen anytime soon, even smaller-scale melt can raise sea levels to the point that large swaths of coastal land will be claimed by the oceans by the end of the century, including many major cities, such as Miami and Shanghai. Global sea level has already risen by about a foot since 1900.  Greenland’s contribution to that rise has jumped since the 1990s, accounting for about 30 percent of sea level rise since then. While some of the water Greenland is flushing out to sea comes from warming ocean waters lapping away at the glaciers that drain the ice sheet, most is due to the melt across its surface during the summer.Read more at Sunnier Skies Driving Greenland[…]

    Read more...
  •   Wednesday, June 28

    Climate Change News Jun 29, 2017 | 02:55 am

      Wednesday, June 28

    Read more...
  • States Betting on Giant Batteries to Cut Carbon

    Climate Change News Jun 28, 2017 | 22:29 pm

    States Betting on Giant Batteries to Cut Carbon Some states and electric power companies are rolling out a new weapon against fossil fuels — giant batteries. A growing number of states are requiring large batteries to be used to store electricity to help expand wind and solar power.  The trend is catching on quickly as at least three states have created energy storage targets or incentives so far this year.Lawmakers in New York passed a bill last week requiring the state to create an energy storage target. Nevada passed a bill incentivizing energy storage in May, and Maryland passed an energy storage tax credit in April.  Those measures follow California, Oregon, and Massachusetts, which have mandates for electricity storage in batteries. Electric power plants have historically been America’s largest source of carbon pollution contributing to climate change.  Today, electric power plants that run on both coal and natural gas emit large volumes of carbon dioxide — the primary cause of global warming. But as more wind farms and solar power plants are built to help reduce climate pollution, electric power companies encounter one of the fundamental challenges with renewables:  The flow of electricity from wind and solar farms isn’t steady — it fluctuates as the wind blows and the sun sets. Sometimes excess energy they produce goes to waste. “We only produce solar electricity when the sun shines.  We consume energy 24/7.  We need to have means of supplying the electricity to consumers 24 hours a day.  That’s one of the basic roles of energy storage,” said Janet[…]

    Read more...
  • Even Boeing-747 Tanker Jets Can’t Win Our Total War on Fires

    Climate Change News Jun 28, 2017 | 16:40 pm

    Even Boeing-747 Tanker Jets Can’t Win Our Total War on Fires The more effectively we suppress fires, the worse they become. As climate change makes the world more combustible, we need a new approach. Aerial fire fighting is a critical but expensive tool for managing wildfire.  Because wildfires will become more frequent and severe due to climate change there is no question we need aerial fire fighting technology – particularly helicopters and specially trained crews that can be inserted into remote areas.  But uncritical belief and investment in aerial fire fighting technologies alone is a road to fiscal ruin.  Thoughtlessly investing in aerial fire-fighting will not meet the formidable fire management challenges that are being amplified by climate change. A fraction of the US investments in aerial fire fighting redirected to preventative fire management, such as planned burning and strategic vegetation thinning, retrofitting poorly designed housing and training ground crews could yield a much bigger bang for the buck, as well as providing year round employment for rural communities.  The media optics of aerial drop of bright red fire retardant from a thundering fire bomber comes at considerable environment and social costs and engenders a dangerously false sense of security in a rapidly warming and more combustible world. Read more at Even Boeing-747 Tanker Jets Can’t Win Our Total War on Fires

    Read more...
  • We Are Heading for the Warmest Climate in Half a Billion Years, Says New Study

    Climate Change News Jun 28, 2017 | 04:15 am

    We Are Heading for the Warmest Climate in Half a Billion Years, Says New Study Carbon dioxide concentrations are heading towards values not seen in the past 200m years.  The sun has also been gradually getting stronger over time.  Put together, these facts mean the climate may be heading towards warmth not seen in the past half a billion years. A lot has happened on Earth since 500,000,000BC – continents, oceans and mountain ranges have come and gone, and complex life has evolved and moved from the oceans onto the land and into the air.  Most of these changes occur on very long timescales of millions of years or more. However, over the past 150 years global temperatures have increased by about 1℃, ice caps and glaciers have retreated, polar sea-ice has melted, and sea levels have risen. Some will point out that Earth’s climate has undergone similar changes before.  So what’s the big deal? Scientists can seek to understand past climates by looking at the evidence locked away in rocks, sediments and fossils.  What this tells us is that yes, the climate has changed in the past, but the current speed of change is highly unusual.  For instance, carbon dioxide hasn’t been added to the atmosphere as rapidly as today for at least the past 66m years. In fact, if we continue on our current path and exploit all convention fossil fuels, then as well as the rate of CO₂ emissions, the absolute climate warming is also likely to be unprecedented in at least the past 420m years.  That’s according to a new study[…]

    Read more...
  •   Tuesday, June 27

    Climate Change News Jun 28, 2017 | 03:55 am

      Tuesday, June 27

    Read more...