Monday, August 17, 2009

hot, flat and crowded

What better day than today to be reading 'Hot, flat and crowded' by Thomas L.Friedman... Summer is upon us in full fierce, and even if only for 3 days, in Canada too we comprehend, by the pores of our skin, what difference only a few degrees make. Now imagine this as a daily average for 4-5 months of the year. Imagine 10 degrees more during reoccurring heatwaves. Imagine very little shade, no air conditioning and depleting water resources. For many this is the current state of reality. For many more (estimated by Friedman at about 5 billion) it will become so by 2050. The good news are that Canada, North America and parts of Europe will likely not take much of the heat. The bad news is that we should still care. According to Friedman population is growing mostly in underdeveloped countries, which are also surprisingly close to the equator. The world is flattened by the internet and communication revolution, and all these billions of people who are soon to be born will want to turn on the light, drive a car and post on their blogs. So we then realize global growth is something we need to manage, since it can not be avoided. However, the effects of its carbon footprint, at its current emission rate, on global climate change may be well beyond our ability to set things right, once the process is beyond a certain tipping point. "Avoid the unmanageable and manage the unavoidable", in Friedman's own words. Friedman's green revolution is not a revolution of feel good recycling and efficient light bulbs. It is an infrastructural revolution of global magnitudes. The goal is to avoid doubling CO2 emissions by 2050, while still supporting growth. One of the strategies suggested, as a part of a global solution, is to increase solar power seven-hundred fold and eliminate all coal fired power. Our 5 billion friends by the equator might be able to help with that.