Sustainable Arlington

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


Paint the Town Green

Celebrate Arlington’s Path to a Sustainable Future

Sunday, September 23, 2018 - 3-5 p

Arlington Town Hall, 730 Massachusetts Avenue, Arlington, MA

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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


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."


  • Energy Efficiency Can Address Climate Change, Drive Prosperity, and Strengthen National Security

    Climate Change News Sep 23, 2018 | 04:37 am

    Energy Efficiency Can Address Climate Change, Drive Prosperity, and Strengthen National Security New paper by award-winning American physicist, Amory B. Lovins, reveals energy efficiency as a bigger, cheaper resource than expected. Distinguished American energy expert Amory Lovins Tuesday published what may be the most important findings for climate change since Lord Nicholas Stern published “The Economics of Climate Change” in 2007. Current climate change thinking argues that the world has to use energy at least 3% more productively each year in order to stay below 2 degrees.  Amory Lovins argues that the world’s ability to sustain such rapid savings (slightly above the 2015 peak of 2.8%/y) is far greater—and can prove even more profitable—than had been thought. In the paper, titled How Big Is the Energy Efficiency Resource?, Lovins shows that the potential for energy efficiency has been massively understated and its cost overstated, by analyzing not whole buildings, vehicles, and factories, but only their individual parts, thus missing valuable ways to help the parts work together to save more energy at lower cost.  Lovins shows a pathway to staying well below 2 degrees is more achievable that any current climate scenarios assume or suggest. “In the same way that no one expected the cost of solar and wind to plummet, driving faster adoption that cuts their cost further,” Lovins explained, “we have overlooked the ability of modern energy efficiency to do the same thing.” The paper cites strong empirical evidence that the scope for energy efficiency is actually severalfold larger and cheaper than had previously been thought.  Unlike renewable energy, whose[…]

  • Saturday 22

    Climate Change News Sep 23, 2018 | 04:21 am

    Saturday 22

  • ICE Car Death Watch Trolls the Trolls

    Climate Change News Sep 22, 2018 | 05:52 am

    ICE Car Death Watch Trolls the Trolls What do you first think when you see a picture of a burning car on Twitter?  Tesla of course, since that’s the public service announcement the media has drilled into our head.  Also, you know, a gas tank can’t catch fire and blow up.  And even if gas was flammable, cars wouldn’t be catching on fire every day, ya know?From one of our newest reports, here are a few quotes about fires (note that ICE = internal combustion engine, which is the thingie that burns gasoline or diesel in a “normal” car):“ICE cars are fundamentally more exposed to fatal fire risks than their electric counterpart.”“Even in case of collision, ICE vehicles are more likely to catch fire than hybrid vehicles.”“ICE cars are fundamentally more exposed to fatal fire risks than their electric counterparts, as the deadliest fires are mostly due to flammable liquids located in the engine area.”Read more at ICE Car Death Watch Trolls the Trolls

  • Tesla Signs Lithium Supply Deal with China’s Biggest Producer

    Climate Change News Sep 22, 2018 | 05:45 am

    Tesla Signs Lithium Supply Deal with China’s Biggest Producer China’s largest lithium producer, Ganfeng Lithium, said on Friday that it had signed a three-year deal to supply Tesla with lithium hydroxide for batteries—another lithium supply agreement for Tesla as it tries to stay ahead in raw materials sourcing before the coming massive EV competition from legacy carmakers. The top Chinese lithium producer will supply around one-fifth of its production to Tesla under the deal between 2018 and 2020, according to a filing by Ganfeng Lithium with the Shenzhen stock exchange as carried by Bloomberg.  The agreement can be extended by another three years, Ganfeng Lithium said. In May of this year, Tesla entered into an agreement with Australia’s Kidman Resources Limited.  The Australian company entered into a binding deal to supply Tesla with lithium hydroxide for an initial term of three years on a fixed-price take-or-pay basis from the delivery of first product.  The deal also has two 3-year term options for renewal. If Tesla’s Nevada factory reaches battery production equivalent to 35 gigawatt hours by late next year, Tesla may need 28,000 tons of lithium hydroxide from late 2019 onwards, according to forecasts by industry consultants Benchmark Minerals, quoted by Bloomberg. Read more at Tesla Signs Lithium Supply Deal with China’s Biggest Producer

  • Friday 21

    Climate Change News Sep 22, 2018 | 03:50 am

    Friday 21

  • Solar Energy Largely Unscathed by Hurricane Florence’s Wind and Rain

    Climate Change News Sep 21, 2018 | 07:15 am

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  • Exxon, Chevron First US Companies to Join Oil and Gas Climate Alliance

    Climate Change News Sep 21, 2018 | 06:30 am

    Exxon, Chevron First US Companies to Join Oil and Gas Climate Alliance ExxonMobil, Chevron, and Occidental Petroleum join ten other major fossil fuel producers that say they recognize the goals of the Paris climate deal. ExxonMobil, Chevron and Occidental Petroleum have joined a global group of oil giants aiming to limit their climate impact. According to the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative (OGCI), its three new members recognize and support the Paris Agreement goal of keeping the temperature increase below 2C.  As a first gift, they will be contributing $100m to the group’s climate fund. Darren Woods, chairman and chief executive officer of ExxonMobil said:  “Our mission is to supply energy for modern life and improve living standards around the world while minimizing impacts on the environment.  This dual challenge is one of the most important issues facing society and our company.” Created in 2014, the OGCI comprises 13 oil and gas companies and aims to minimize the impacts of greenhouse gases through investments and research into green technology.  The group funds research into cutting emissions related to the production of fossil fuels.  It advocates for carbon capture mechanisms and more efficient transport engines as ways to decrease emissions. Exxon, Chevron First US Companies to Join Oil and Gas Climate Alliance

  • Tesla Model 3 Gets 5-Star Rating from U.S. Safety Agency

    Climate Change News Sep 21, 2018 | 05:45 am

    Tesla Model 3 Gets 5-Star Rating from U.S. Safety Agency Model 3 sedan has been awarded a five-star rating by the U.S. auto safety agency NHTSA in tests that are standard for cars in the United States. The agency has been investigating crashes involving other Tesla models, which have raised questions over the functioning of the automaker’s auto-pilot system. The company’s shares were up 1.7 percent at $304.27 in early trading on Thursday. The agency started the 5-Star safety ratings program in 1993 and Tesla's Model X and Model S, which has been the subject of at least one NHTSA investigation, have both received the top rating in the past. The ratings provide information about crash protection and rollover safety of new vehicles. Read more at Tesla Model 3 Gets 5-Star Rating from U.S. Safety Agency

  • Sea-Level Rise Is Already Hitting the Real-Estate Market

    Climate Change News Sep 21, 2018 | 05:05 am

    Sea-Level Rise Is Already Hitting the Real-Estate Market Along coastlines, some homes that are currently high and dry could be flooded as seas rise over the next century.  The threat may be several decades away, but the real estate market is already responding.Ryan Lewis of the University of Colorado is part of a team that analyzed hundreds of thousands of coastal real estate transactions over a decade.They compared the sale prices of homes that were similar in almost every way:  same size, same zip code, and the same distance from the beach.Lewis:  “The difference is either one house is slightly higher than the other, or one house is protected by natural features.”In other words, two identical homes – one more likely to flood in the future, and one less.  The analysis found that more vulnerable properties sold, on average, for about seven percent less.Read more at Sea-Level Rise Is Already Hitting the Real-Estate Market

  • Glacial Engineering Could Limit Sea-Level Rise, If We Get Our Emissions Under Control

    Climate Change News Sep 21, 2018 | 04:10 am

    Glacial Engineering Could Limit Sea-Level Rise, If We Get Our Emissions Under Control Targeted engineering projects to hold off glacier melting could slow down the collapse of ice sheets and limit sea-level rise, according to a new study published in the European Geosciences Union journal The Cryosphere.  While an intervention similar in size to existing large civil engineering projects could only have a 30% chance of success, a larger project would have better odds of holding off ice-sheet collapse.  But study authors Michael Wolovick and John Moore caution that reducing emissions still remains key to stopping climate change and its dramatic effects. "Doing geoengineering means often considering the unthinkable," says Moore, a scientist at Beijing Normal University, China, and a professor of climate change at the University of Lapland, Finland.  The term 'geoengineering' is usually applied to large-scale interventions to combat climate change.  But instead of trying to change the entire climate, Wolovick and Moore say we could apply a more targeted approach to limit one of the most drastic consequences of climate change:  sea-level rise. Their "unthinkable" idea is glacial geoengineering: making changes to the geometry of the seafloor near glaciers that flow into the ocean, forming an ice shelf, to prevent them from melting further.  Some glaciers, such as the Britain- or Florida-sized Thwaites ice stream in West Antarctica, are retreating fast.  "Thwaites could easily trigger a runaway [West Antarctic] ice sheet collapse that would ultimately raise global sea level by about 3 meters," explains Wolovick, a researcher at Princeton University's Department of Geosciences, US.  This could have dramatic effects to[…]