Tom Friedman: Climate Change, BAU, And Toxic Securities
By Bill Henderson

29 September, 2008


Change leaders not just light bulbs.

Thomas Friedman gets it. Sort of.

Friedman's construct 'global weirding'- remember his 'golden straightjacket' and 'thundering herd' - is his attempt to move his readers past the conventional wisdom of climate change as a gradual warming over a century (which might even be beneficial if you are a golfer in Minnesota). Friedman knows about abrupt climate change science. He knows that Hansen et el have postulated that the unpredicted and unprecedented Arctic Melt is a tipping point to irreversible, runaway warming (or at least an increasingly high probability of going over such a tipping point given climate change time lags and latent positive feedbacks).

He is a powerful voice pushing previously mis-educated publics past the 'new denial', but unfortunately Friedman remains part of the problem because his hot, flat and crowded view of our world remains profoundly American-centric and the leadership change he advocates remains deck chair shuffling instead of a much needed renunciation of the Church of Business ever increasing control of all of our lives and the Church of Business dominance of government especially which is killing us.

(Before you wrongly caricature my perspective so as not to hear my message, I was born into a Main Street business family and have been a small l liberal all my life - a Galbraithian liberal, because, following John K, I am a strong advocate of well regulated markets, of the utility of markets if they haven't been captured and corrupted. Plus learning: climate change is the biggest market failure ever; important information is not always quantified. And the several decades of planning and restructuring needed to make a smooth transition at the end of cheap oil didn't happen - markets didn't get us clean, renewable energy in time. Plus system science: feedbacks, tipping points, many possible equilibria and path dependence, won't ever fit into 19th century economics.)

Church of Business capture (increasing returns) of all of our governing processes is killing us, and two decades of failure to even begin emission reduction of a scale needed is only the climate change example, but Friedman, unlike Gus Speth, still offers a BAU path to energy independence, climate change mitigation and the American way of life (now GLOBALIZED tm).

Friedman seems not to recognize that it is not just energy independence and climate change that requires a green revolution - it's printing trillions of dollars to put America's military on steroids, more than 700 bases worldwide, perpetrating crimes like Iraq to control the oil producing Middle East. It's not just toxic securities - it's melamine in milk, GM genes from who knows where in all our crops, cattle eating dead cattle, water in plastic bottles, chemicals in our kids gonads, etc., etc.. His America still has making money first, a growth economy - a drawdown economy - in a finite world, and no heretical discussion of alternatives allowed.

Friedman, unlike Sutton /Spratt, Lester Brown and Britain's New Green Deal people, would have you still believe that we can achieve energy independence, climate change mitigation and the good life for all within the present politics and economics, within our presently configured socio-economy, without governance innovation such as wartime mobilization.

Friedman must know of but not agree with the Climate Code Red conclusion that our present politics and economics are too slow, too partisan and too path dependent to rise to the challenge of climate change as an emergency. Even though he must know and agree that the climate change danger is so serious and immediate as to be an emergency.

The presently proposed government massive bailout - Bush: "The market is not functioning properly". - might be changing his mind but probably not. The ruling class he is a member of is trying desperately not to awaken to the reality of the "greatest misallocation of resources in the history of the world " and that this car sprawl socio-economic configuration has no future. The world's wealthiest seven percent produce over half of humanities GHGs - electric cars, smart personal choices, green revolutions, and fibs like the Carbon Disclosure Project are comforting denial vehicles.

Change leaders and not just lightbulbs. Get the Church of Business out of government. Before it's too late if it isn't already.

Free up our democratic governance so that science and alternative perhaps not business friendly possibilities aren't pre-emtively marginalized. Where they are not just inputs to business dominated policy making. Democratic governance requires an informed public and our highly connected world could make this possible, but the Church of Business instead works constantly to control information in the social engineering of citizens into consumers. American democracy today - GIGO. America has the best government money can buy if the goal is making sure of a narrow BAU far into the future so that some people's investments produce.

America has a wealth of knowledgeable expertize on every subject known to man. It has educated, enlightened, and efficient administrators. There is no lack of potential leadership. Free up America's ability to get out of the mess created by those selling toxic Church of Business ideology.

Don't throw out the baby with the bath water. Free up governance from the Church of Business but don't impair the formidable power of business and markets to innovate given that we need to reduce our GHG emissions by 80% in just twelve short years. This is where Friedman is strongest and where reading him is hopeful.

Getting out of BAU with governance innovation such as mobilization with a Secretary of Transition has to happen first. Getting the greedy and over leveraged out of the way, unblocking and returning the power and utility of markets and business to get us to the post fossil fuel economy fast is the needed step he ignores, but you have to applaud his leadership in making both the case for a green revolution and the hopeful possibilities he envisions if we could.


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