Thomas Friedman at GGCS2 on how America has lost its groove… and how to get it back

At the 2nd annual Governors Global Climate Summit last week, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Thomas Friedman spoke to summit delegates during the Governor’s Lunch Panel on Friday about his book Hot, Flat, and Crowded 2.0: Why We Need a Green Revolution–and How It Can Renew America and what’s been driving his work.

Friedman talks about what he means when he says the world has become “hot, flat, and crowded” — Hot means global warming. Flat refers to the observation that more and more nations with hundreds of millions of people are now living and consuming food and goods more like Americans. And crowded means explosive population growth. The premise of Friedman’s book is that these 3 issues — hot, flat, and crowded — have created a perfect storm for a raging fire that threatens our economy and our national security. He also says America has lost it’s groove.

He then talks about the world’s 5 biggest mega-trend problems of the world and how America can “get our groove back” by solving the world’s biggest problems.

Friedman says our hot, flat & crowded world is the breeding ground for 5 “mega-trends” that are the world’s biggest problems, namely: an ever-increasing demand for decreasing resources; Petrodictatorship and the inverse proportion between the price of oil and the pace of freedom; Climate Change and its devastating consequences; Energy Poverty; and Biodiversity Loss.

Friedman leaves climate change to the expert panel of Governor Schwarzenegger, Tony Blair, and Dr. Pachauri to discuss with Ann Thompson and he goes on to discuss Energy Poverty, at one point showing a slide of kids doing homework under lights in an airport parking lot because it’s the only available light in their town. He explains the devastating impact of knowledge loss due to energy poverty and how when climate change compounds with energy poverty we’ll see mass losses of people.

Friedman addresses Biodiversity Loss and points out that we’re losing species today at a catastrophic rate of about a thousand times the normal rate, and says we’re living in the Age of Noah today, literally… and the decisions we make at this critical time can make the difference between our survival and possible extinction.

According to Friedman, how we look at this list of the world’s 5 biggest mega-problems will determine whether we rise to the challenges of our time or we go the way of the Dodo bird.

And, Friedman argues, the country who makes the right move will control the future of the global economy and achieve total security.

Then Friedman goes off about E.T.

Not the space alien.  Thomas Friedman’s E.T. is green but he’s talking about Energy Technology, and how it can make America or whatever country gets there first the most powerful, most secure, most wealthy, most clean, most responsible, and most respected nation in the world, and the driver of the new, sustainable economy.

According to Friedman, the country who controls Energy Technology — the science of providing cheap, clean, reliable, abundant electrons — will be solving the world’s 5 mega-problems, because all 5 of the world’s biggest problems have the same solution. And Friedman says whoever does this controls the world’s next great global industry.

One theme Friedman drives home in his presentation is that Price Matters, and without a long term, durable, price on carbon — one that sends a message to business and individuals that carbon is expensive, and clean energy is less expensive — without that price signal, nobody will switch.

Friedman took some time to address the youth in the room, saying the place to make a difference is to get into the rooms of the people who are writing the rules.  “Get off Facebook,” Friedman says, “and get in somebody’s face.”

Friedman’s message is in your face indeed. He says the hour is late, and the time to act is now. But he has a good feeling about the future, saying he meets all kinds of people on his book tours and hears all kinds of creative ideas that tell him “America is Alive” and ready to meet the challenges of the day.

Thomas Friedman’s Hot, Flat, and Crowded 2.0: Why We Need a Green Revolution–and How It Can Renew America is being re-released with updates November 24th.

Thank you for your ping back to my blog. I agree GGCS2 was — how did you say this — pathetically under-reported! That’s one of the main reasons I am here in Copenhagen now. We need more journalists, more bloggers covering these events. The UN needs to QUICKLY come up with reasonable and thoughtful means of approving bloggers for press credentials to these events… not to mention making more accommodations for credentialed journalists to actually gain entry to the events… too many journalists shut out of COP15 and that too is absolutely pathetic.