"Tom Friedman is back — and he’s pessimistic"
First the good news from the New York Times:
We have ended TimesSelect. All of our Op-Ed and news columns are now available free of charge. Additionally, The New York Times Archive is available free back to 1987.
Good for them. Interestingly, even though I had paid my money to get TimesSelect, I pretty much stopped reading the stuff behind the barrier because I couldn’t connect Climate Progress readers (i.e. you) to the material. The NYT had basically taken some of their best columnists out of the global discussion. Now they are back.
Friedman has a new piece titled “Doha and Dalian” — “Doha [top] is the capital of Qatar, a tiny state east of Saudi Arabia. Dalian [bottom] is in northeast China and is one of China’s Silicon Valley.” Their growth rates have surprised even itinerant Tom:
In Doha, since I was last there, a skyline that looks like a mini-Manhattan has sprouted from the desert. Whatever construction cranes are not in China must be in Doha today. This once sleepy harbor now has a profile of skyscrapers, thanks to a huge injection of oil and gas revenues. Dalian, with six million people, already had a mini-Manhattan when I was last here. It seems to have grown two more since — including a gleaming new convention complex built on a man-made peninsula.
What does this have to do with climate change? Friedman explains:
If you want to know why I remain a climate skeptic — not a skeptic about climate change, but a skeptic that we’re going to be able to mitigate it — it’s partly because of Doha and Dalian. Can you imagine how much energy all these new skyscrapers in just two cities you’ve never heard of are going to consume and how much CO2 they are going to emit?
I am not blaming them. It is a blessing that their people are growing out of poverty. And, after all, they’re just following the high-energy growth model pioneered by America. We’re still the world’s biggest energy hogs, but we’re now producing carbon copies in places you’ve never heard of.
Yes, “Americans” are popping up all over now — people who once lived low-energy lifestyles but by dint of oil wealth or hard work are now moving into U.S.-style apartments, cars and appliances.
Our planet cannot tolerate so many “Americans,” unless we take the lead and change what it means to be an American in energy terms.
That’s why we’re fooling ourselves. There is no green revolution, or, if there is, the counter-revolution is trumping it at every turn. Without a transformational technological breakthrough in the energy space, all of the incremental gains we’re making will be devoured by the exponential growth of all the new and old “Americans.”
I don’t fully agree. Yes, we should be pessimistic, especially as long as Bush is President, but I don’t think we need a “transformational technological breakthrough” — that might never come. We really need a sustained commitment to adopting the clean technologies that we have already developed, plus those that are in the pipeline, like plug-in hybrids and cellulosic ethanol. That commitment will need to be of a scale comparable to what we did during World War II — no mean feat. Later this year I will try to lay out the “solution to global warming” as I see it.