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

“Like 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.