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
Apr 17, 2019 | 06:53 am
New registrations of fully electric vehicles (EVs) in the United States hit a record 208,000 cars in 2018, more than double the new registrations in 2017, business intelligence firm IHS Markit said in a new analysis. Loyalty rates among EV owners also grew last year, as almost 55 percent of all new EV owners returned to buy or lease another EV in the fourth quarter of 2018, up from the 42 percent of new owners who returned to purchase an EV in the third quarter, IHS Markit said. “As more new models enter the market, we anticipate an even further increase in loyalty to these vehicles,” Tom Libby, loyalty principal at IHS Markit, said, commenting on the analysis. Unsurprisingly, 59 percent of new EV registrations last year were in California and other states that have adopted zero emission vehicle (ZEV) standards, IHS Markit said. California alone accounted for almost 46 percent of all new EV registrations in the U.S. last year with 95,000 EV registrations. The other ZEV states that added to California to help drive EV registrations last year include Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont, the intelligence firm noted. Going forward, IHS Markit expects that new EVs sales in the United States will exceed 350,000 units in 2020, accounting for 2 percent of America’s car fleet. Further out in time, in 2025, new EV sales in the U.S. are forecast to jump to more than 1.1 million for a market share[…]Read more...
Climate Change News
Apr 17, 2019 | 06:43 am
Nations around the globe have pledged to increase their forest cover by planting millions of trees. But new research shows much of this growth would be in monoculture plantations that would be quickly cut down and do little to tackle climate change or preserve biodiversity. Experts agree: Reforesting our planet is one of the great ecological challenges of the 21st century. It is essential to meeting climate targets, the only route to heading off the extinction crisis, and almost certainly the best way of maintaining the planet’s rainfall. It could also boost the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of inhabitants of former forest lands. The good news is that, even as deforestation continues in many countries, reforestation is under way in many others. From India to Ethiopia, and China to Costa Rica, there are more trees today than there were 30 years ago, saving species, recycling rain, and sucking carbon dioxide from the air. The Bonn Challenge, an international agreement struck eight years ago to add 1.35 million square miles of forests (an area slightly larger than India) to the planet’s land surface by 2030, is on track. But what kind of forests are they? A damning assessment published earlier this month in the journal Nature brought bad news. Forest researchers analyzed the small print of government declarations about what kind of forests they planned to create. They discovered that 45 percent of promised new forests will be monoculture plantations of fast-growing trees like acacia and eucalyptus, usually destined for[…]Read more...
- Climate Change News Apr 17, 2019 | 06:32 am Read more...
Climate Change News
Apr 16, 2019 | 05:30 am
For all her experience and name recognition, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren is being out-fundraised by relative newcomers like Texas’ Beto O’Rourke and Indiana’s Pete Buttigieg this quarter. But when it comes to policy proposals, the Democrat is still outpacing most of her rivals in the 2020 Democratic primary. On Monday, Warren released a proposal that promises, among other things, an executive ban on new offshore leases and drilling on government-owned lands on her first day in office. It marks her sixth policy plan in three and a half months, and is one of the primary field’s first climate proposals that touches on the themes laid out in the Green New Deal. Warren’s proposal includes free access to national parks for American citizens and pledges to restore protections to national monuments like Bears Ears that were rolled back by the Trump administration. Most interestingly, she introduces the framework for the kind of conservation workforce that would put a smile on FDR’s face. The 21st Century Civilian Conservation Corps, as she describes it, “will create job opportunities for thousands of young Americans caring for our natural resources and public lands.” The idea is to house the new corps under the umbrella of Americorps — the voluntary civil society program funded by the federal government. If you squint you can see some similarities between Warren’s notion of putting 10,000 young Americans and veterans to work in conservation and the federal jobs guarantee laid out in the Green New Deal, which promises a family-sustaining[…]Read more...
Climate Change News
Apr 16, 2019 | 05:00 am
Every stage of plastic's life cycle, from fossil fuel extraction to disposal, produces greenhouse gases. A new study looked at ways to lower the toll. As concern over plastic waste grows, researchers are raising red flags about another problem: plastic's rapidly growing carbon footprint. Left unchecked, greenhouse gas emissions associated with plastics will be nearly four times greater by mid-century, when they are projected to account for nearly one-sixth of global emissions. Not all plastics have the same carbon footprint, though. What they are made from, the source of the energy that powers their production, and how they are disposed of at the end of their life cycle all make a difference. In a study published Monday in the scientific journal Nature Climate Change, researchers calculated the life cycle emissions of different types of plastics, made from fossil fuels and from plants, and looked for ways to lower their total greenhouse gas emissions. They found that there is no silver bullet. Every combination of plastics production and end-of-life disposal generates greenhouse gas emissions. But by combining four different approaches, they found they could lower emissions up to 93 percent compared to business as usual by 2050 if each measure was taken to the extreme. Read more at 4 Ways to Cut Plastic’s Growing Greenhouse Gas EmissionsRead more...
Climate Change News
Apr 16, 2019 | 04:10 am
Thawing permafrost in the Arctic may be releasing 12 times as much nitrous oxide as previously thought, according to a new study published in the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics. Nitrous oxide, a powerful greenhouse gas 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide, can remain in the atmosphere for up to 114 years, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The research, led by scientists at Harvard University, involved measuring greenhouse gas levels over 120 square miles of melting permafrost in the North Slope of Alaska. The data, collected using a small plane, showed that the nitrous oxide emitted over the course of just one month of sampling in 2013 was equal to what was thought to be the region’s yearly emissions. The findings back up similar results from other recent studies that used core samples from Arctic peat to measure rising nitrous oxide emissions. Nitrous oxide emissions have been rising globally in recent decades thanks to the expansion of industry and intense fertilizer use. But scientists had long thought that emissions of the gas from melting permafrost were “negligible,” as the EPA described it in a 2010 report. “Much smaller increases in nitrous oxide would entail the same kind of climate change that a large plume of CO2 would cause,” Jordan Wilkerson, an atmospheric chemistry graduate student at Harvard and lead author of the new study, said in a statement. Read more at Melting Permafrost Releasing High Levels of Nitrous Oxide, a Potent Greenhouse GasRead more...
- Climate Change News Apr 16, 2019 | 03:50 am Read more...
Toon of the Week - Arctic sea ice may be gone by the year 2040. / Oh, get serious!There will always be ice in the Arctic. ...Climate Change News Apr 15, 2019 | 06:48 am Read more...
- Climate Change News Apr 15, 2019 | 06:38 am Read more...
Climate Change News
Apr 15, 2019 | 06:31 am
Story of the Week - How a Few Small Fixes Could Stop Climate Change"We have to act fast, and achieve the biggest possible impact with the actions we take." When thinking about new ways to tackle climate change, University of Oxford researcher Thom Wetzer first points out how a modest rise in temperature could push the Earth to a tipping point that yields dramatic climate change. A little warming, for example, could cause Arctic permafrost to melt, unleashing enough heat-trapping methane to cook the planet. Wetzer and his colleagues turned the idea of a tipping point on its head, theorizing that small changes in policy or the development of a new technology, for instance, could lead to big, positive changes in the way we produce and consume energy. Their proposal is outlined in a paper in the journal Science. “Climate change brings risks that will, in one way or another, impact most people’s lives — and certainly the generations that follow,” said Wetzer, a co-author. “Whether that is through extreme weather events, changes in the economy or the reactions of politicians to these climate risks. We can either put up with these risks and watch them grow out of control, or we can act to mitigate the worst impacts of climate change.” How a Few Small Fixes Could Stop Climate Change by Marlene Cimons, Nexus Media, Apr 11, 2019Read more...