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Category — Friedman, Thomas (New York Times)

In Denial: Thomas Friedman’s (Self) Limits to (Intellectual) Growth

“[N]eo-Malthusians like [Paul] Gilding resemble hypochondriacs who insist that they are at death’s door and see every sniffle as confirmation that the end is near. Rather than launch massive programs to sterilize the population or make everyone vegetarians, we should hand them a tissue and tell them to get over it. Or, as the English philosopher Pete Townsend said, ‘This is no social crisis, just another tricky day for you’.”

- Michael Lynch on Thomas Friedman et al.

Thomas Friedman’s New York Times latest column–The Earth is Full–quotes environmental-entrepreneur Paul Gilding (author: The Great Disruption) about the rampant denial concerning the world crossing of “growth/climate/natural resources/population redlines all at once.”

So just about all of us do not see what is so obvious to these smartest-guys-in-the-environmental room. Really. Is such not another example of shrillness that Fred Krupp of Environmental Defense Fund warned his own ilk against? And it is more wolf crying really going to end up any better than what Paul Ehrlich screamed in the 1960s?

Mind Games

Friedman/Gilding are part of a strange psychological mindset that is too often overlooked by critics of neo-Malthusianism. Cognitive dissonance is needed to explain how Ehrlich-to-Gilding can glaze beyond the repeated debunking of their work. They are, in the vernacular of the mental health community, in denial. And by supporting each other in their futile crusade, they are enablers. Bottoming-out and mid-course correction, anyone?

And there might be a new psychological syndrome among resource economists: ‘crisis-warning’ fatigue. These warnings have been appearing constantly for centuries, if not millennia, although often with a new twist. Robert Bradley, our humble moderator, recently put up a long two-part post (here and here) listing the many warnings about peak oil over the past century and more. [Read more →]

June 10, 2011   4 Comments

Tom Friedman Has a Standing Invitation to My Weekly Poker Game: The Abused Insurance Analogy for Climate Change

Editor’s Note: Jim Manzi is a Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute, and blogs at both National Review’s The Corner and at The American Scene.

It is amusing to watch advocates of rapid, aggressive carbon dioxide emissions reduction, when confronted with the plain facts of the consensus scientific projections for climate change and its associated damages, move from “science says we must do this or die” to “well, actually, the science is pretty uncertain, so it’s possible that we might die,” and then proceed to some restatement of Pascal’s Wager.

Friedman’s Throw

Tom Friedman’s recent New York Times column is a perfect illustration of this logic.  I’ll quote him at length, before demonstrating that his emission-cuts-as-insurance analogy breaks down once you plug in actual numbers:

This is not complicated. We know that our planet is enveloped in a blanket of greenhouse gases that keep the Earth at a comfortable temperature. As we pump more carbon-dioxide and other greenhouse gases into that blanket from cars, buildings, agriculture, forests and industry, more heat gets trapped.

What we don’t know, because the climate system is so complex, is what other factors might over time compensate for that man-driven warming, or how rapidly temperatures might rise, melt more ice and raise sea levels. It’s all a game of odds. We’ve never been here before. We just know two things: one, the CO2 we put into the atmosphere stays there for many years, so it is “irreversible” in real-time (barring some feat of geo-engineering); and two, that CO2 buildup has the potential to unleash “catastrophic” warming.

When I see a problem that has even a 1 percent probability of occurring and is “irreversible” and potentially “catastrophic,” I buy insurance. That is what taking climate change seriously is all about.

Computing the Odds

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the leading bookie for this game.  The current IPCC consensus forecast is that, under fairly reasonable assumptions for world population and economic growth, global temperatures will rise by about 3°C by the year 2100 (Table SPM.3). Also according to the IPCC, a 4°C increase in temperatures would cause total estimated economic losses of 1–5 percent of global GDP (page 17). By implication, if we were at 3°C of warming at the end of this century, we would be well into the 22nd century before we reached a 4°C rise, with this associated level of cost. [Read more →]

December 17, 2009   15 Comments

Dear Tom Friedman: Don’t Want You to Die Off … Just Get Well!

In the New York Times editorial page’s latest excursion into shrill climate alarmism, foreign affairs correspondent Thomas Friedman accuses those opposing the current cap-and-tax bill as wanting a few people, say 2.5 billion to die off.  And us bad guys are just grasping at straws. “. . . you will notice that the drill-baby-drill opponents of this legislation are now making two claims,” he says. “One is that the globe has been cooling lately, not warming, and the other is that America simply can’t afford any kind of cap-and-trade/carbon tax.”

Gosh, Tom, I suppose that the pace of global warming has accelerated in the last decade, and hurricanes are getting more frequent and stronger too. And those emails from the alarmist in-crowd that the climate world (and general public!) are reading about right now–those are the good guys, the real disinterested scholars at work.

So, Tom, you claim that cap and tax opponents are calling forth a mass plague–a modern Black Death–that will wipe out 2.5 billion people sometime between now and 2050. (Well, I guess this simply extrapolates what John Holdren is postulating by 2020–a possible billion deaths!)  In your world that is an inevitable result of modern living using hydrocarbon fuels.

Unlike his imaginative colleague Maureen Dowd, what Tom Friedman writes actually matters.  Many people believe that he is proficient about energy and climate. So I must again call this charlatan to task. [Read more →]

November 21, 2009   6 Comments

Dear Thomas Friedman: Are You a Fascist Wannabee?

The New York Times chief foreign affairs correspondent, Thomas Friedman, has finally come out of the closet as a fascist wannabee. Harsh words, but consider the evidence.

Here is the pertinent section from his recent op-ed, “One Party Democracy” [with commentary]:

One-party autocracy certainly has its drawbacks [like the secret police and labor camps?]. But when it is led by a reasonably enlightened group of people, as China is today [that’s why they need all those internet filters], it can also have great advantages [such as locking away dissenters]. That one party can just impose the politically difficult but critically important policies needed to move a society forward in the 21st century [no need to find out what people want, just tell them what to do].

It is not an accident [or, as Marxists.org puts it: “It is not mere coincidence . . .”] that China is committed to overtaking us in electric cars, solar power, energy efficiency [not quite, China uses more than twice as much coal as the US and almost three times as much energy per unit of output, by 2030 China will generate more CO2 than the rest of the world can save, even with the most draconian “green” policies], batteries, nuclear power and wind power.

China’s leaders understand that in a world of exploding populations and rising emerging-market middle classes, demand for clean power [such as all that coal and CO2?] and energy efficiency is going to soar. Beijing [!] wants to make sure that it owns [italics added] that industry [can’t we give then Chrysler and GM, too?] and is ordering the policies to do that, including boosting gasoline prices, from the top down [Chinese gasoline prices are still below world market levels, we do not worry about that because we have markets].

Green Fascism

Friedman quotes approvingly that renowned defender of freedom, Joe Romm, who notes that “China is going to eat our lunch and take our jobs on clean energy . . . and they are going to do it with a managed economy we don’t have and don’t want.” You are certainly right about that, Joe and Tom.

If this were just an aberration, we could forgive them. But it is not. [Read more →]

September 11, 2009   8 Comments

Costa Rica Follow-Up: Fatal Dependence on Renewable Electricity (Tom Friedman's energy paradise loses its luck)

“When an abundant natural fall of water is at hand, nothing can be cheaper or better than water power. But everything depends upon local circumstances. The occasional mountain torrent is simply destructive. Many streams and rivers only contain sufficient water half the year round and costly reservoirs alone could keep up the summer supply. In flat countries no engineering art could procure any considerable supply of natural water power, and in very few places do we find water power free from occasional failure by drought.”

- W. S. Jevons, The Coal Question (London: Macmillan and Co., 1865), p. 129.

Thomas Friedman in the New York Times has presented Costa Rica as a model for the energy world, noting its reliance on renewable energy (hydro) to generate electricity. In response, we posted last week about how such dependence had left it vulnerable to the vagaries of rainfall, and (to a much lesser degree) wind. W. S. Jevons, the father of energy economics, said as much in 1865.

With all hydro development in the hands of the government, and with hydro responsible for 75-80% of power generation, any shortfall in rain can, within 1-2 weeks result in reduced electricity generation. And the odds have now caught up with Costa Rica – recent dryer conditions have led to blackouts in the country. [Read more →]

April 25, 2009   2 Comments

Costa Rica’s Energy Paradise: Comment on Tom Friedman (Not everywhere can be a playground for the rich)

In his recent New York Times op-ed, Thomas Friedman veritably gushes about the long-term commitment of Costa Rica to a clean environment and renewable energy. He is proud of the fact that renewables power 95 percent of the country’s economy. Such energy air-conditions resort hotels, charges golf carts, powers cable pulleys through the rain forest canopy, and bakes chips at the local Intel assembly plant.

Costa Rica’s energy mix is led by 75–80% hydropower, 12% geothermal, and 3%–5% oil (more specific statistics are here). The workhorse hydro is a mix of storage and run of river, with storage at about 50% of the 2,000 MW installed capacity.  In a dry year, the run-of-the-river plants will not produce much, or very reliably, which brings up the risk of such reliance.  In 2007 Costa Rica suffered power cuts as a result of drought and its lack of diversity in electricity generation. [Read more →]

April 15, 2009   13 Comments