The Rehabilitation of Tom Friedman

Much to my dismay, he keeps writing good articles.

That’s how I learned a new language here: “Climate-Speak.”

It’s easy to learn. There are only three phrases. The first is: “Just a few years ago …” Just a few years ago you could dogsled in winter from Greenland, across a 40-mile ice bank, to Disko Island. But for the past few years, the rising winter temperatures in Greenland have melted that link. Now Disko is cut off. Put away the dogsled.

There has been a 30 percent increase in the melting of the Greenland ice sheet between 1979 and 2007, and in 2007, the melt was 10 percent bigger than in any previous year, said Konrad Steffen, director of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado, which monitors the ice. Greenland is now losing 200 cubic kilometers of ice per year — from melt and ice sliding into the ocean from outlet glaciers along its edges — which far exceeds the volume of all the ice in the European Alps, he added. “Everything is happening faster than anticipated.”

The second phrase is: “I’ve never seen that before…” It rained in December and January in Ilulissat. This is well above the Arctic Circle! It’s not supposed to rain here in winter. Said Steffen: “Twenty years ago, if I had told the people of Ilulissat that it would rain at Christmas 2007, they would have just laughed at me. Today it is a reality.”

The third phrase is: “Well usually …but now I don’t know anymore.” Traditional climate patterns that Greenland elders have known their whole lives have changed so quickly in some places that “the accumulated experience of older people is not as valuable as before,” said Rosing. The river that was always there is now dry. The glacier that always covered that hill has disappeared. The reindeer that were always there when the hunting season opened on Aug. 1 didn’t show up.

No wonder everyone here speaks climate now — your kids will, too, and sooner than they think.

He wrote a fantastic one a few years ago drawing an analogy between Kennedy’s “we’ll put a man on the moon in ten years” vision with a future president’s vision of being energy independence in ten years. The idea is that we can make it cool to invent a solution that way it was cool, 40 years ago, to want to be an astronaut.

If one of the current candidates for president were to pull all their weight behind that idea, I think it would carry them home.

Published by

Ragged Clown

Based in San Jose, California

3 thoughts on “The Rehabilitation of Tom Friedman”

  1. While I’d love to see one or both of the candidates issue such a pledge, I’m not sure if I’d prefer a challenge to industry or a big outlay of taxpayer $$$ to have The Feds do it.

    Is this on your list of things best not left to be solved by free markets?

    If you do want taxpayers to help, is it solely or merely largely because Paris suggested it?

  2. The market has mostly been ignoring it. Most free-marketers would probably say something like “I am not going to jeopardize american jobs for some butterfly”.

    Friedman wants to totally mobilize the nation. Public, private, market, government – all aspects of society.

    There would be a priority on research grants. There would be tax breaks for companies advancing the state of the art on renewable energy. Prizes for high schoolers. Art competitions for Kindergarteners. Every school would have a Saving Our Planet Club. Boxes of Cheerios would contain little plastic windmills. David Bowie [er, he is english – ed] would write songs about it. And Sting [so is he – ed]. Elton John [and him – ed] would repurpose Candle in the Wind as an inspiration to our nation’s children. Excited 4th graders would watch, trembling with anticipation, at the launch of the next-gen fuel-saving aircraft.

    The nation would learn to dream again as we once dreamed of walking on the moon.

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