In Greenbuild speech, NY Times columnist slams White House: “There are endangered species I’ve seen more of in the last two years than that climate team speaking out in defense of climate science and scientists.”
The last three years have been the most politically and economically turbulent that Americans have ever seen. And that has helped pushed environmental issues — particularly climate change — onto the back burner.
Author and New York Times Columnist Tom Friedman had a fantastic speech this week at the Greenbuild Conference in Toronto, in which he briefly summarized the recent history of our rising and falling hopes on U.S. climate action. He also made clear the Obama White House shares some of the culpability for climate change being put on a back burner.
We’ve edited the 30-minute speech down to an 8-minute segment featuring all his best quotes. It’s worth listening to the whole thing:
Here are some of the most quotable quotes, including his discussion of the powerful impact of the “totally bogus” Climategate affair:
On the financial crisis of 2008:
“This underlies the faulty accounting that we have been exhibiting in both the market and mother nature. But a more fundamental crisis looms ahead. An ecological credit crunch caused by undervaluing the environmental assets that are the basis of all life and prosperity.”
On our response to the wake-up call in 2008:
“If 2008 was our warning heart attack, how did we respond in 2009? Did we go on a diet? Start exercising? Basically we kept on smoking and gaining weight and started to actively ignore the doctor’s advice.”
On the hacked emails from East Anglia University:
“That whole email thing, which was totally bogus….
“Because the message it gave out — that somehow there was some crazy global conspiracy between climate science to hype the whole notion of climate change and global warming. that message was spread far and wide and it came at a time of economic distress when it fell on way too many sympathetic ears. And it came at a time of weakness, at least in America, at the Obama Administration, which fundamentally failed to speak out in favor of the science. The president’s climate team, I’m sorry to say, there are endangered species I’ve seen more of in the last two years than that climate team speaking out in defense of climate science and scientists.”
On the political and economic hangover into 2010-2011:
“And as a result, is that there will be no energy legislation — let alone clean energy legislation — at the earliest until 2013. We who believe in energy efficiency and protecting the environment, and trying to move the economy to a clean power system, we’ve had a couple of bad years here. And it seems to me we need to sit back and realize this environment — political, economic environment — is not going to change overnight. And therefore, every one of us here has to think about how we bring more imagination to every thing we do around this industry to work within these constraints.”
And moving into 2012 and beyond, Friedman ended on a positive note — one that I thought wrapped up the speech well:
“Frankly, I’m amazed that you’re all here. You just didn’t get the word. God bless you. You just didn’t get the word that we’re not going to have a price signal, that the politics is all paralyzed. That we’re fighting with each other from one end of Washington…to the other. You just didn’t get the word. You are like a marine we interviewed for our new book, That Used to Be Us, when we asked him why he surged in Anbar province, he said ‘we were too dumb to quit.’ Thank you all for being too dumb to quit. Do not get the word.”
“Please don’t get the word. Because if you get the word, the word’s kind of grim right now. I wish I could tell you that some quick solution from the national level is coming. It’s not. We are where we are, we’ve got what we’ve got. It’s on you. It’s on me. It’s on us. They’re not going to solve it for us. So promise you will keep on going and you will never get the word.”
- Is the global economy a Ponzi scheme? Yes, homo “sapiens” sapiens have constructed the grandest of Ponzi schemes, whereby current generations have figured out how to live off the wealth of future generations. Yes, we are all in essence Madoffs (many wittingly, most not) or at least his most credulous clients. I had been planning to write something on this for a while when NYT columnist Tom Friedman interviewed me for “The Inflection Is Near?” which appears in today’s New York Times:
“We created a way of raising standards of living that we can’t possibly pass on to our children,” said Joe Romm, a physicist and climate expert who writes the indispensable blog climateprogress.org. We have been getting rich by depleting all our natural stocks — water, hydrocarbons, forests, rivers, fish and arable land — and not by generating renewable flows.
“You can get this burst of wealth that we have created from this rapacious behavior,” added Romm. “But it has to collapse, unless adults stand up and say, ‘This is a Ponzi scheme. We have not generated real wealth, and we are destroying a livable climate …’ Real wealth is something you can pass on in a way that others can enjoy.”