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
Oct 22, 2017 | 04:15 am
“Nothing More than ash and bones.” That grim description of how some victims were found underscores the horror of the wildfires that swept through and devastated Northern California. At least 38 people were killed, including a 14-year-old boy found dead in the driveway of the home he was trying to flee, a 28-year-woman confined to a wheelchair and a couple who recently had celebrated their 75th anniversary. In addition to the lives lost, approximately 5,700 homes and businesses were destroyed, including entire neighborhoods turned into smoldering ruins. Some 220,000 acres, including prized vineyards, have been scorched, and the danger is not over, as some fires are still burning and officials fear the return of winds could spread more catastrophe. Fire season is part of life in California, something that residents know and prepare for after the hot, dry summer months. But the events that began last Sunday have been unprecedented, and so the question that must be confronted is what caused the deadliest week of wildfires in the state’s history. Gov. Jerry Brown (D) pointed the finger at climate change. “With a warming climate, dry weather, and reducing moisture, these kinds of catastrophes have happened and will continue to happen and we have to be ready to mitigate, and it’s going to cost a lot of money,” he said last week. No single fire can be specifically linked to climate change, and certainly other factors, such as increased development or logging and grazing activities, are involved. But scientists say there[…]Read more...
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Climate Change News
Oct 21, 2017 | 18:33 pm
Last Friday, the European Space Agency Sentinel-5p satellite went into orbit above the earth. Onboard is an imaging spectrometer instrument called TROPOMI, led by SRON (Dutch Space Agency) and KNMI (Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute) to monitor the amount of methane, ozone and other air quality-related pollutants in the atmosphere. There has been quite a buzz around this unique advancement in space, and the valuable data it will provide on methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that accounts for a quarter of the warming our planet is experiencing today. Curbing anthropogenic methane emissions is one of the most efficient and economical options available to slow the rate of warming over the next few decades, while efforts continue to reduce CO2 emissions worldwide. Detecting methane from spaceMethane sources include both natural and manmade emissions from livestock, agriculture, oil & gas operations, and landfills. These sources are distributed around the world and vary widely at local, regional and temporal scales—which makes it challenging to quantify emissions from diverse sources. This is where satellites come into play. They bring together the unique capability of continuously monitoring the entire planet, measuring critical geophysical variables, and mapping change by collecting long-term datasets. The TROPOMI satellite sensor brings significant advances in the monitoring of air pollution in terms of better resolving methane, and other major pollutants affecting air quality (e.g. NO2, SO2, formaldehyde, aerosols). For instance, data from TROPOMI will be available at 7 km x 7 km grids around the world, on a daily basis—which has never[…]Read more...
The Connecticut Green Bank: Innovation in Finance Sparks New Model for Public/Private Investment in Clean EnergyClimate Change News Oct 21, 2017 | 06:35 am
The Harvard Kennedy School’s Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation announced in July that the Connecticut Green Bank had won this year’s Innovations in American Government Award. The Ash Center award recognizes excellence and creativity across a wide range of government initiatives, from technology and public health programs to conservation and education. That Connecticut’s pioneering clean energy financing model won this prestigious award, selected from among thousands of entries, speaks to the important role of states in accelerating the renewable energy transition. Connecticut first established the Green Bank in 2011 through Public Act 11-80 as a key part of the state’s strategy for achieving its energy and climate goals. The main objective was to have cleaner, cheaper, more reliable sources of energy while also creating jobs and spurring local economic development. Leveraging private investment dollars with limited public funds is at the heart of the green bank’s operation. Since its inception, the Connecticut Green Bank has attracted over $6 of private capital for every $1 of public funds committed. Overall, the Connecticut Green Bank has achieved nearly $1.1 billion in clean energy investment across the state. This investment has supported almost 25,000 projects and more than 230 megawatts of clean energy, resulting in greenhouse gas emissions reduction of 3.7 million tons. Over 13,000 jobs have been created, translating to an estimated 7.5 to 20 percent of total job creation in Connecticut, and clean energy prices have declined by about 20 to 30 percent. Among the Green Bank’s most successful[…]Read more...
Climate Change News
Oct 21, 2017 | 06:35 am
Working closely with industry partners, University of Delaware researchers have developed a new method for constructing offshore wind farms and proven that it is cheaper, faster, and could make possible offshore wind deployment at a scale and pace able to keep up with the region’s scheduled retirements of nuclear and coal-fired power plants. The researchers calculated that their innovative process will cost up to $1.6 billion less per project than conventional approaches and take half the construction time. “In planning for offshore wind power, the big question is how we generate electricity cost-competitively, and at a scale that is both a relevant replacement for aging power plants and also applicable to climate change,” said the project’s principal investigator, Willett Kempton, professor in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment (CEOE). “We’re the first people who have shown the engineering details, step-by-step, how to achieve that.” FindingsThe key insight that allowed Kempton’s team to make such considerable optimizations in cost and deployment speed was that the entire structure, from seafloor mounting to the top of the turbine, can be assembled in one piece in port, moved as a unit, and in one step placed into the sea floor. It may seem like a simple idea, but it was by no means obvious that it would work with existing equipment until completing the detailed engineering and cost analysis. The reference design used 10-megawatt turbines with support structures, together standing twice as tall as the Statue of Liberty and weighing 2500 metric tons,[…]Read more...
Climate Change News
Oct 21, 2017 | 05:46 am
Cli-Fi refers to “climate fiction;” it is a term coined by journalist Dan Bloom. These are fictional books that somehow or someway bring real climate change science to the reader. What is really interesting is that Cli-Fi books often present real science in a credible way. They become fun teaching tools. There are some really well known authors such as Paolo Bacigalupi and Margaret Atwood among others. A list of other candidate Cli-Fi novels was provided by Sarah Holding in the Guardian. What makes a Cli-Fi novel good? Well in my opinion, it has to have some real science in it. And it has to get the science right. Second, it has to be fun to read. When done correctly, Cli-Fi can connect people to their world; it can help us understand what future climate may be like, or what current climate effects are. As I write this, we are getting a steady stream of stories out of Puerto Rico the island was devastated by Hurricane Maria. It is hard to imagine the devastation, what life is like without electricity, food, or water. What is life like on an island of 3 million people, each fending for themselves, just trying to survive. Another thing that is hard to imagine is the future. What will the world be like decades from now when Earth temperatures have continued to rise? What will agriculture be like? What will coastal communities be like? What will international relations and armed conflict be like? It is[…]Read more...
Climate Change News
Oct 21, 2017 | 05:00 am
Target, one of America’s leading discount store retailers, has this week announced a new climate policy and goals based on the Science-Based Targets initiative, including a commitment to source 100% renewable energy in its domestic operations.Target published its new climate policy and goals on Tuesday, created with the Science-Based Target initiative “in mind” in an effort to “keep making progress” on its existing global and local environmental efforts. As Target highlight in their announcement, the company is a two-time ENERGY STAR partner of the year, and the Solar Energy Industries Association’s (SEIA) 2016 top corporate solar installer in the US.Target’s new climate policy opens by simply stating that “Target acknowledges the scientific consensus that the climate is changing, that our business is contributing to that change, and that our supply chain, operations, and customers will continue to be impacted by the effects of climate change.” As a result, Target is “committed to reducing our greenhouse gas (GHG) footprint, and to engaging constructively with industry peers, value chain partners, external stakeholders, and policymakers to help accelerate the transition to a low-carbon economy.”Read more at Target Announces 100% Renewable Energy Target Amidst New Climate PolicyRead more...
Climate Change News
Oct 21, 2017 | 04:14 am
Following its successful demonstration of the Highway Pilot and Highway Pilot Connect systems (earlier post)—the latter making truck platooning possible—Daimler has demonstrated automated snow removal operations on the site of the former Pferdsfeld airbase. This application of autonomous commercial vehicle operation was based on a specific customer requirement. Under the project name “Automated Airfield Ground Maintenance” (AAGM), four Mercedes-Benz Arocs tractor units demonstrated automated airfield clearing in a remote-controlled convoy. The benefits are obvious: Airfield clearances are hard to predict and thus difficult to plan, especially in winter. This makes snow removal units operated with pinpoint precision by a single vehicle operator to remove snow from runways especially crucial when extreme weather strikes without warning during the winter months, and they require no additional vehicle and staff scheduling. Read more at Daimler Shows Off New Self-Driving Snow Removal TrucksRead more...
- Climate Change News Oct 21, 2017 | 03:55 am Read more...
Climate Change News
Oct 20, 2017 | 02:57 am
Rising temperatures can make the U.S. West dangerously combustible. We saw it this year in California wine country. The deadly fires that swept through California's wine country made one of the state's most destructive fire seasons on record even worse. As global temperatures continue to rise, scientists say the risk of extreme fire seasons across the West is rising, too. Wildfires are hugely complex events, complicated by human activity, including rampant development and decades of fire suppression strategies that left too much dry timber and underbrush for fires to burn. Add the effects of climate change to the mix, and California's already fire-prone landscape grows increasingly combustible. What's the link between fires & climate change?An increasing body of research finds that the hot and dry conditions that created the California drought were brought on in part by human-caused warming. Higher temperatures pull moisture out of soil and vegetation, leaving parched landscapes that can go up in flames with the slightest spark from a downed utility wire, backfiring car or embers from a campfire. California's average temperature has risen about 2 degrees Fahrenheit during the second half of the 20th century. Altogether this has led to more "fuel aridity"—drier tree canopies, grasses and brush that can burn. "There's a clear climate signal in these fires because of the drought conditions connected to climate change," said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at UCLA. Hot, Dry Years Becoming More Common in California"As long as there's fuel to burn, your chances of having large[…]Read more...