Must read and must see: Hot, Flat, and Crowded

hot_flat_and_crowded_full.jpgLike it or not, we need Tom Friedman.”

So begins Joseph Nye’s cover review in Washington Post Book World on Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution — And How It Can Renew America.

Friedman deserves attention because he is the only “big media” columnist in the country who regularly writes on energy and global warming issues. His book is already #59 on Amazon, and will no doubt jump higher after he appears on Meet the Press Sunday, which I would certainly urge everyone to watch. After all, he is not only the most high-profile columnist on this issue, he is the most thoughtful.

And I’m not just saying that because he interviewed me several times. I am quite confident that most ClimateProgress readers will be impressed by this book, even those who may not agree with every foreign policy position that Friedman has espoused. Or perhaps especially those progressives. Why?

We can’t institute the policies needed to save the nation and the world from multi-decade (if not multi-century) catastrophe if traditional progressives are the only ones pushing this issue. That’s why I take Friedman’s writing on this issue as so important. He’s not one of “the usual suspects.” He looks at things from a more centrist (and multi-Pulitzer-Prize-winning!) perspective — with a strong “national power” angle, which is presumably why they asked Nye to review his book (since Nye is a security expert):

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”….

We need a lot more of the Tom Friedmans of the world to start articulating the dire nature of our energy and climate problems and the urgent need for a clean energy transition.

Of course, I have no doubt that his positions on climate and clean energy will lead the right wing to go after him. He has recently written a couple of great op-eds on McCain’s sham “green”-ness:

  1. Eight Strikes and You’re Out,” calling out McCain for missing eight straight votes on renewable tax credits.
  2. And Then There Was One,” which explains that by choosing Palin, McCain has “completed his makeover from the greenest Republican to run for president to just another representative of big oil.”

But then anyone who immerses themselves in the facts on climate, oil, and clean energy inevitably becomes an alarmist — and a believer in the urgent need for progressive government policies — much as happened to IPCC head Rajendra Pachauri (see “What are the moral implications of the Palin pick?“) and, in a different way, T. Boone Pickens (see “Pickens in a pickle: He embraces progressive policies but not progressive politicians“).

By the 2020s, the vast majority of Americans will be alarmists. But of course delaying action until then means we can’t avoid catastrophic outcomes except with the most onerous of government policies. The challenge for our national leaders is to start very aggressive mitigation long before then, before everyone ‘gets’ it. And that I’m afraid will require the high-profile centrists of the nation to rise up and bring their heft and credibility to the climate fight.

Kudos to Friedman for joining takin on the most important fight in human history.

23 Responses to Must read and must see: Hot, Flat, and Crowded

  1. Larry Coleman says:

    In the final sentence “joining” is not quite the right word. TF has been singing this song for some years now.

  2. Lamont says:

    “greenist republican to run for president”?

    is there something in mccain’s past where he significantly broke from the republican party in his voting record — or did he merely at one time suggest the heresy that global warming might be due to anthropogenic carbon emissions but did nothing about it?

    i’m kind of sick of this asshole getting “moderate” credibility from saying a few things which piss off republicans because he deviates from the strict party line and then he does absolutely nothing about those issues. he was against the tax breaks, did nothing, then became for them. he was cautious against rushing into iraq, did nothing, and now is the biggest hawk. he might have at one time admitted to AGW, did nothing, and now is a complete denier. he was at one time pro-choice and is now clearly pandering to the right wing. what a fucking joke. and it’d be nice to see a more mainstream audience calling him on all this other than just the daily show.

  3. JCH says:

    After the War in Iraq, I realized that TF sucks.

  4. john says:

    TF got Iraq wrong — but he’s got energy and climate right, he’s got a big megaphone, and he’s very influential. If you care about this issue, you gotta welcome TF’s advocacy.

  5. rpauli says:

    Hmmmm I wonder how could we drastically cut CO2 emissions??

    How about:

    Big Govmints Tax Carbon fuels – and big time,

    Big Govmints shut down CO2 bizness, – forcefully

    Big Govmints open the pathways to clean energy and energy conservation.

    All three sound just fine to me.

    Oh you say you want no Govmint and let the market to decide? How’s that working for you?

    Seems the Carbon Fuels Market can’t control itself. Who will?

  6. David B. Benson says:

    The spot price for coal is now about $140 per short ton in central Appalachia; divery cost must be added. I think that is enough that tree farmers ought to seriously consider competing with coal via torrified wood, no subsidy required.

    Lets just do 40 acres. I suppose each acre will grow 3 tons (dried) per acre per year; that’s 120 tons, the heating equivalent of 110 tons of central Appalachian coal. Assuming torrification and transportation costs are the same as the transporation costs of coal, that’s $140×110 = $15,400 per year; probably quite a good gross for a 40 acre wood lot.

  7. Larry Coleman says:

    I disagreed with Friedman on Iraq…was disappointed in him. But the big difference between him and the others who supported the war is that he was not ideological…he tried to figure out whether the war would actually work out. The other thing is that he was willing to change his mind when he saw that it was not. (The neocons claim that it is working out now. Sure, right. It’s just peachy keen. Just like they envisioned it. Reformed the mideast, we did, and Iran thanks us for it.) He is not an ideologue like most columnists, and he follows the evidence…and therefore is worth listening to. Plus, he’s damn smart.

  8. David B. Benson says:

    “Highway Fund Shortfall May Halt Road Projects”

    and with electric cars, we might have no road projects at all.

  9. I will watch and read and get back to you Thanks

  10. Paul K says:

    by choosing Palin, McCain has “completed his makeover from the greenest Republican to run for president to just another representative of big oil.”

    It is not surprising that you have no knowledge of Governor Sarah Palin’s actual pro-active record on climate issues.

    On September 14, 2007, Governor Palin signed Administrative Order 238 establishing a sub-cabinet to prepare a climate change strategy. The
    Climate Change Sub-cabinet
    was established to consolidate the state’s knowledge about the expected effects of global warming in Alaska, recommend measures and policies to prepare communities and residents to respond to expected effects, and guide the state’s participation in local, regional and national efforts to curb and to respond to global warming. The Climate Change Sub-Cabinet will develop, support and expand renewable energy resource programs and to promote aggressive development of renewable energy sources such as geothermal, wind, hydroelectric, tidal, and in-stream energy. In addition, the Governor is signing a letter that adds Alaska as an observer to the Western Climate Initiative.

    Actions indeed speak louder than words.

    [JR: Congratulations. With this nonsensical comment you are now on permanent moderation, which means all of your posts will be reviewed before they are put online. Everything you cite is just “words” not actions. The only actions she has taken is to push hard to expand fossil fuel consumption and push hard for expensive transportation projects that serve no value. She is actively suing the interior department to delist the polar bear as a threatened species because that would interfere with oil drilling. But wait, Joe, she signed a letter that adds Alaska as an observer to the Western climate initiative — What a pitbull for climate action she is!]

  11. thingbreak says:

    I’m sorry. I simply can’t in good conscience support such a repugnant excuse for a human being as Thomas Friedman. He is grotesque.

    My revulsion for him is only tempered by my pity for his unconscious inanity, which I feel is accurately portrayed in these links[1][2][3][4.

  12. paulm says:

    …Highway Fund Shortfall May Halt Road Projects…

    Looks like civilization has peaked in the west.

  13. Bob Wallace says:

    “and with electric cars, we might have no road projects at all.”

    That doesn’t make sense.

    All that will happen is that we will move to a different taxation system for roads.

    Perhaps a mileage fee rather than a consumption fee. I would expect that it would be easy to read mileage via smart meters.

    BTW, less driving and lighter cars = less maintenance. We’re just in a transition.

  14. Jay Alt says:

    Activist groups with email lists might want to include the above review, the video link and some choice editorials as well. Let’s work to get his columns in front of more and more people.

    I challenge all whose newspapers don’t carry Friedman to do the same thing.

  15. Jay Alt says:

    Well duh! Sometimes I need a kick in the behind to see the obvious – We need Tom Friedman.

    I dislike the columnists in my paper and their columnists are a big reason why my subscription has lapsed. They now carry more green features, but they should also be carrying Friedmans editorials on Energy and Climate.

    I plan on making the case to phone solicitors who call me, to salespeople who recruit subscribers in kiosks in local stores and in letters to the editorial board. I will also seek out their advertisers who might be like minded and ask them to do the same things.

    Activist groups with mailing lists could include the above review, the video link and some choice editorials. His ideas are great. Let’s work to get his columns in front of more and more people.

    I challenge all whose newspapers don’t carry Friedman to do the same thing.

  16. Russ says:

    thingbreak – Those links were excellent.

    I’ve long been ambivalent about Friedman myself. I agree completely with his energy-climate change-national security-economic integrity nexus.

    But, as a Peak Oiler, I don’t find his prescription – breathless technophilia and rampant globalization – realistic. That’s just digging deeper when you’re in a deep hole. (I also reject globalization on many other grounds, so I’d have a problem with F even leaving Peak Oil out of it.)

    This line from the Raibbi review made me break up laughing:

    It is a tale of a man who walks 10 feet in front of his house armed with a late-model Blackberry and comes back home five minutes later to gush to his wife that hospitals now use the internet to outsource the reading of CAT scans.

    That’s as dead on as it gets. I’m very familiar with F’s way from reading his columns.

    Then there’s this:

    The book’s genesis is conversation Friedman has with Nandan Nilekani, the CEO of Infosys. Nilekani causally mutters to Friedman: “Tom, the playing field is being leveled.” To you and me, an innocent throwaway phrase—the level playing field being, after all, one of the most oft-repeated stock ideas in the history of human interaction. Not to Friedman. Ten minutes after his talk with Nilekani, he is pitching a tent in his company van on the road back from the Infosys campus in Bangalore:

    As I left the Infosys campus that evening along the road back to Bangalore, I kept chewing on that phrase: “The playing field is being leveled.”

    What Nandan is saying, I thought, is that the playing field is being flattened… Flattened? Flattened? My God, he’s telling me the world is flat!

    This is like the pseudo-profound musing you have when you’re stoned or on an acid trip.

    As for Iraq, from that clip I couldn’t quite tell if F was just describing that way of looking at it, or if he was endorsing it. I don’t recall his ever giving that kind of justification in his columns.

  17. john says:

    Paul K:

    A friend of mine who lives in Alaska and served with two different governors — and who knows Palin — noted that when she signed AO 238, she promptly tried to stack the deck by appointing deniers and oil sympathizers to oversee the sub cabinet’s activities.

    As for appointing an observer to the Western Climate Initiative, he says it’s not because she wants to support it, rather it’s a case of “keeping your friends close and your enemies closer.”

    Actions do speak louder than words, and Palin’s actions reveal her to be a climate denier and oil troll.

    Your actions, Paul, show you to be so partisan and doctrinaire that your comments are at best, worthless, at worst, dangerous and disingenuous.

  18. David B. Benson says:

    Bob Wallace — It was a macabre sort of joke.

  19. Bob Wallace says:

    David BB

    Sorry, having trouble tell snark from trolling, I suppose.

    Noise level has been very high on pro-environmental forums lately.

  20. hapa says:

    shouting us out of the picture, to move the debate toward them

  21. David B. Benson says:

    Next time I’ll be sure to include a :-)

  22. Earl Killian says:

    I’m not a fan of Tom Friedman, but I do like to listen to Fresh Air, and Terry Gross just interviewed him on his book. He had a number of attempts at phrasing that are interesting. He said the “Drill baby drill” chant at the Republican convention would be like chanting for IBM Selectric Typewriters at the dawn of the PC/Internet age. He calls clean fuels “Fuels from Heaven” (appropriate because it can all be traced to stars), and dirty fuel “Fuels from Hell” (it mostly comes from beneath the Earth). He says it is more important to change our leaders than our lightbulbs, which is a good line.

  23. paulm says:

    dirty fuel is actual mostly derived from sun shine….