Thomas Friedman | Why Do We Swallow What Big Oil and the Green Movement Tell Us? – The New York Times

“. . . . Because our continued addiction to fossil fuels is bolstering Vladimir Putin’s petrodictatorship and creating a situation where we in the West are — yes, say it with me now — funding both sides of the war. We fund our military aid to Ukraine with our tax dollars and some of America’s allies fund Putin’s military with purchases of his oil and gas exports.

And if that’s not the definition of insanity, then I don’t know what is.

Have no illusion — these sins of the green movement and the oil industry are not equal. The greens are trying to fix a real, planet-threatening problem, even if their ambition exceeds their grasp. The oil and coal companies know that what they are doing is incompatible with a stable, healthy environment. Yes, they are right that without them there would be no global economy today. But unless they use their immense engineering talents to become energy companies, not just fossil fuel companies, there will be no livable economy tomorrow.

Let’s look at both. For too long, too many in the green movement have treated the necessary and urgent shift we need to make from fossil fuels to renewable energy as though it were like flipping a switch — just get off oil, get off gasoline, get off coal and get off nuclear — and do it NOW, without having put in place the kind of transition mechanisms, clean energy sources and market incentives required to make such a massive shift in our energy system.

It’s Germany in 2011, suddenly deciding after the Fukushima accident to phase out its 17 relatively clean and reliable nuclear reactors, which provided some 25 percent of the country’s electricity. This, even though Germany had nowhere near enough solar, wind, geothermal or hydro to replace that nuclear power. So now it’s burning more coal and gas.

A 2019 working paper for the U.S. National Bureau of Economic Research found that in Germany “the lost nuclear electricity production due to the phaseout was replaced primarily by coal-fired production and net electricity imports. The social cost of this shift from nuclear to coal is approximately $12 billion per year. Over 70 percent of this cost comes from the increased mortality risk associated with exposure to the local air pollution emitted when burning fossil fuels.” “

Did Warming Play a Role in Deadly South African Floods? Yes, a Study Says. – The New York Times

“The heavy rains that caused catastrophic flooding in South Africa in mid-April were made twice as likely to occur by climate change, scientists said Friday.

An analysis of the flooding, which killed more than 400 people in Durban and surrounding areas in the eastern part of the country, found that the intense two-day storm that caused it had a 1-in-20 chance of occurring in any given year. If the world had not warmed as a result of human-caused emissions of greenhouse gases, the study found, the chances would have been half that, 1 in 40.

The study, by a loose-knit group of climate scientists, meteorologists and disaster experts called World Weather Attribution, is the latest in a string of analyses showing that the damaging effects of global warming, once considered a future problem, have already arrived. And extreme events like this one are expected to increase as warming continues.

“We need to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to a new reality where floods and heat waves are more intense and damaging,” one of the study’s authors, Izidine Pinto, a climate scientist at the University of Cape Town, said in a statement issued by World Weather Attribution.

The flooding and related mudslides caused more than $1.5 billion in damage and were “the biggest tragedy that we have ever seen,” President Cyril Ramaphosa said at the time. Bridges and roads were destroyed and thousands of homes, many of them in makeshift settlements, were swept away or damaged.

The disaster led to sharp criticism of the government for not fulfilling pledges to improve infrastructure to handle heavy downpours and to tackle a longstanding housing crisis.

Image

Shipping containers that were swept up by floodwaters in Durban, a major port on South Africa’s Indian Ocean coast.
Credit…EPA, via Shutterstock

World Weather Attribution conducts its analyses within days or weeks of an event, while it is still fresh in the public’s mind. This one looked at the two-day storm that hit eastern South Africa beginning on April 11 and produced rainfall totals of nearly 14 inches in some areas, half or more of the area’s annual total. The work has yet to be peer-reviewed or published, but it uses methods that have been reviewed previously.

This includes using observational data and two sets of computer simulations, one that models the world as it is, about 2 degrees Fahrenheit (1.1 degrees Celsius) warmer than it was before widespread emissions began in the late 19th century, and a hypothetical world in which global warming never happened.

The finding that the likelihood of such an extreme rain event has increased with global warming is consistent with many other studies of individual events and broader trends. A major reason for the increase is that as the atmosphere warms, it can hold more moisture.”

Nigel Gould-Davies | Russia Cannot Be Allowed to Say It Has Won This War – The New York Times

Mr. Gould-Davies is the senior fellow for Russia and Eurasia at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

“Ever since Russia invaded Ukraine 10 weeks ago, Western governments have tirelessly condemned this egregious act and declared their support for Ukraine. But as united as they have been in their outrage, they have been vague about their goals.

This posture has begun to change. Recently, U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said that America wanted “to see Russia weakened” so that it could not threaten its neighbors again. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss of Britain said that her country would seek “to push Russia out of the whole of Ukraine.” Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, declared that “we want Ukraine to win this war.”

But what the West is unclear about is how it wants the war to end. While it has chosen the means to respond to Russia’s aggression — principally, military aid to Ukraine and sanctions against Russia — it has not defined the ends these methods will serve. Instead, Western policy has largely been focused on outcomes it wants to avoid rather than achieve. The first is a Ukrainian defeat that allows Russia to install a puppet regime in Kyiv. The second is Russia’s resort to weapons of mass destruction or expansion of the war beyond Ukraine.”

David Lindsay: Excellent piece. Here is a comment I hope is true.

Bruce Rozenblit
Kansas City, MO8h ago

The atrocities committed by Russia have united the free world. This will not stand. Russia will be pushed out of Ukraine. The West will no longer trade with Russia so long as Putin or anything like him remains in power. That’s it. Putin thought that the West’s dependence on Russian resources would keep us from ourtracising his country from the global economy. He was wrong. Necessity is the mother of invention. The West will now develop new sources of energy, especially non-fossil sources, as it rapidly weans itself off of Russian oil and gas. Actually, the world is awash in natural gas. The problem is getting it from here to there but that can also be accomplished. Putin greatly underestimated how Western tribalism plays into this conflict. Ukraine is not Syria or Bosnia. These people are White, Slavic and Christian. They are our fellow tribe members. Attacking them is personal, familial. Putin has awakened the sleeping tiger. Putin is girding for a protracted conflict. So can we. The naval blockade in the Black Sea will be broken. Those sea lanes will be opened up. The next phase of escalation will be naval. Russia cannot afford this war. It does not have the financial resources to wage it. A protracted conflict will bankrupt it, literally. Russia has now put itself on a path to its demise. When this is over, Russia will be forced to change, or collapse from within.

6 Replies56 Recommended

Thomas L. Friedman | The War Is Getting More Dangerous for America, and Biden Knows It – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“If you just followed news reports on Ukraine, you might think that the war has settled into a long, grinding and somewhat boring slog. You would be wrong.

Things are actually getting more dangerous by the day.

For starters, the longer this war goes on, the more opportunity for catastrophic miscalculations — and the raw material for that is piling up fast and furious. Take the two high-profile leaks from American officials this past week about U.S. involvement in the Russia-Ukraine war:

First, The Times disclosed that “the United States has provided intelligence about Russian units that has allowed Ukrainians to target and kill many of the Russian generals who have died in action in the Ukraine war, according to senior American officials.” Second, The Times, following a report by NBC News and citing U.S. officials, reported that America has “provided intelligence that helped Ukrainian forces locate and strike” the Moskva, the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea fleet. This targeting assistance “contributed to the eventual sinking” of the Moskva by two Ukrainian cruise missiles.

As a journalist, I love a good leak story, and the reporters who broke those stories did powerful digging. At the same time, from everything I have been able to glean from senior U.S. officials, who spoke to me on condition of anonymity, the leaks were not part of any thought-out strategy, and President Biden was livid about them. I’m told that he called the director of national intelligence, the director of the C.I.A. and the secretary of defense to make clear in the strongest and most colorful language that this kind of loose talk is reckless and has got to stop immediately — before we end up in an unintended war with Russia.

The staggering takeaway from these leaks is that they suggest we are no longer in an indirect war with Russia but rather are edging toward a direct war — and no one has prepared the American people or Congress for that.

Vladimir Putin surely has no illusions about how much the U.S. and NATO are arming Ukraine with matériel and intelligence, but when American officials start to brag in public about playing a role in killing Russian generals and sinking the Russian flagship, killing many sailors, we could be creating an opening for Putin to respond in ways that could dangerously widen this conflict — and drag the U.S. in deeper than it wants to be.”

Vanessa Barbara | Bolsonaro-Supporting Brazilian Telegram Channels Are Wild and Sinister – The New York Times

Ms. Barbara is a contributing Opinion writer who focuses on Brazilian politics, culture and everyday life.

“SÃO PAULO, Brazil — When Elon Musk reached a deal to acquire Twitter, right-wing Telegram groups in Brazil went wild. Here at last was a muscular champion of free speech. Even more, here was someone who — users rushed to confirm — wanted Carlos Bolsonaro, son of the president, to be Twitter’s managing director in Brazil.

That was, of course, not true. But I wasn’t surprised. I had been following these groups on the messaging app for weeks, to watch how misinformation was spread in real time. In Brazil, fake news seems to be something that the population at large seems to fall victim to — Telegram just offers the sort of deepest rabbit hole you can go down. So I knew — from horrible, eye-sapping experience — that for many right-wing activists, fake news has become an article of faith, a weapon of war, the surest way of muddling the public discussion.”

Thomas L. Friedmann | A Message to the Biden Team on Ukraine: Talk Less – The New York Times

    Opinion Columnist

“Growing up in Minnesota, I was a huge fan of the local N.H.L. team at the time, the North Stars, and they had a sportscaster, Al Shaver, who gave me my first lesson in politics and military strategy. He ended his shows with this sign-off: “When you lose, say little. When you win, say less. Goodnight and good sports.”

President Biden and his team would do well to embrace Shaver’s wisdom.

Last week, in Poland, standing near the border with Ukraine, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin got my attention — and certainly Vladimir Putin’s — when he declared that America’s war aim in Ukraine is no longer just helping Ukraine restore its sovereignty, but is also to produce a “weakened” Russia.

“We want to see Russia weakened to the degree that it can’t do the kinds of things that it has done in invading Ukraine,” he said. “So, it has already lost a lot of military capability. And a lot of its troops, quite frankly. And we want to see them not have the capability to very quickly reproduce that capability.”

Please tell me that this statement was a result of a National Security Council meeting led by the president. And that they decided, after carefully weighing all the second- and third-order consequences, that it is in our interest and within our power to so badly degrade Russia’s military that it will not be able to project power again — soon? ever? not clear — and that we can do that without risking a nuclear response from a humiliated Putin.”

David Lindsay:  I admired this piece by Friedman, until I got to the following comment.

Ricardo
France May 3

Oh boy, what a flawed piece by Friedman: 1. Team Biden was pretty careful from the start to keep us out of WW III. That’s why they ruled out US troop involvement – in spite of the obvious disadvantage of losing strategic ambiguity. They have been consistent about that (thankfully). 2.Team Biden has innovated by using public communication about secret insights for the first time in US foreign policy history. That has debunked many Russian lies, helped turn the tables in the communication war, and done a lot of good so far. 3. Ukraine is not a small country. Everyone in the world can find it on a map (except a small group of people). 4. Not true: “our goal began simple and should stay simple: Help Ukrainians fight as long as they have the will.” First, Friedman was against that. Second, the West’s strategy is evolving with Russia’s blunders, and that makes sense. Third, once Ukraine is armed, they will keep fighting until they have all of their country back, including Crimea. So the West will have to tell them them where to stop. 5. Austin’s remarks refer to that decision. Team Biden’s well-considered intention was to signal that we are not close to that point, i.e. the cost for Russia to continue is high. Friedman didn’t understand that though. 6. Team Biden has been pretty consistent throughout this terrible war. Unlike many other countries (incl. Europeans).

9 Replies377 Recommended
x
Which inspired me to write my own comment.
David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comments:
Good points by both sides. That is confusing. As usual, Tom Friedman makes many good points. I’m persuaded by some excellent comments though that the Austin remarks were probably well thought out, and conveyed power and strength. I recommend the new song on Youtube, We are all Ukrainians Now, or “Ukrainian Now,” by Tom Paxton and John McCutcheon.
I think Europe and the US should put more skin in the war. I’d like to see NATO and the US take over the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, as a “humanitarian mission,” to free up Ukrainian ports, so the Ukraine can move its wheat to the markets in the third world. NATO cold seize Mariupol, to protect innocent civilians from genocide, and seize the Crimea, because they can. We are already seizing super yachts, why not take back the Crimea, which was invaded and stolen. Heavy weapons and fuel could then move more quickly into the war zones through several ports. Risky, yes, but also heroic and honorable.
David also writes at InconvenientNews.net

Ukrainians Flood Village of Demydiv to Keep Russians at Bay – The New York Times

The waters that poured into Demydiv were one of many instances of Ukraine wreaking havoc on its own territory to slow Russia’s advance. Residents couldn’t be happier. “We saved Kyiv,” one said.


“DEMYDIV, Ukraine — They pull up soggy linoleum from their floors, and fish potatoes and jars of pickles from submerged cellars. They hang out waterlogged rugs to dry in the pale spring sunshine.

All around Demydiv, a village north of Kyiv, residents have been grappling with the aftermath of a severe flood, which under ordinary circumstances would have been yet another misfortune for a people under attack. This time, it was quite the opposite.

In fact, it was a tactical victory in the war against Russia. The Ukrainians flooded the village intentionally, along with a vast expanse of fields and bogs around it, creating a quagmire that thwarted a Russian tank assault on Kyiv and bought the army precious time to prepare defenses.

The residents of Demydiv paid the price in the rivers of dank green floodwater that engulfed many of their homes. And they couldn’t be more pleased.”

How Zelensky Tamed Ukraine’s Fractious Politics and Stood Up to Putin – The New York Times

“KYIV, Ukraine — Russian tanks were rolling over the border and Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, was in the grips of fear and panic. Street fighting broke out and a Russian armored column, barreling into the city, advanced to within two miles of the office of President Volodymyr Zelensky.

In those tense first days of the war, almost everyone — Russian President Vladimir V. Putin, military analysts and many Western officials — expected the Ukrainian leadership to fracture. Instead, Mr. Zelensky decided to personally remain in the capital, taking selfies as he traversed Kyiv to reassure his people. And he ordered his senior aides, many Cabinet members and much of his government to also stay put, despite the risks.

It was a crystallizing moment for Mr. Zelensky’s government, ensuring a wide array of agencies kept running efficiently and in sync. Leading politicians put aside the sharp-elbowed infighting that had defined Ukrainian politics for decades and instead created a largely united front that continues today.”

Bret Stephens | Why We Admire Zelensky – The New York Times

     Opinion Columnist

“Why do we admire Volodymyr Zelensky? The question almost answers itself.

We admire him because, in the face of unequal odds, Ukraine’s president stands his ground. Because he proves the truth of the adage that one man with courage makes a majority. Because he shows that honor and love of country are virtues we forsake at our peril. Because he grasps the power of personal example and physical presence. Because he knows how words can inspire deeds — give shape and purpose to them — so that the deeds may, in turn, vindicate the meaning of words.

We admire Zelensky because he reminds us of how rare these traits have become among our own politicians. Zelensky was an actor who used his celebrity to become a statesman. Western politics is overrun by people who playact as statesmen so that they may ultimately become celebrities. Zelensky has made a point of telling Ukrainians the hard truth that the war is likely to get worse — and of telling off supposed well-wishers that their words are hollow and their support wanting. Our leaders mainly specialize in telling people what they want to hear.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT comment:
Excellent essay Bret Stephens, thank you. I recently reread “the Hobbit,” by JRR Tolkien, for possibly the 10th time, and it is famous for good reason. Tolkien describes the elves, dwarves and hobbits of Middle Earth with humor and wisdom, poking politely at the many strengths, weakness, and foibles of human beings.
  Dictatorships, such as that of Russia, is represented by the Necromancer, and the goblins and orcs. The Hobbit was published in 1937, after WW I. WW II was on its way.
  Reluctantly, I think that NATO should go to war with Russia, to save the Ukraine, as if it were in NATO already. I think some things are worth dying for. In the Hobbit, the leader of the dwarves, Thorin Oakenshield, sits out the great battle of five armies, while others fight to protect his gold and dragon treasure. He is honorless, while his kin on the field fight with honor, for their freedom and very lives.
  The NATO countries are a bit like the coward, Thorin Oakenshield, whose mind is clouded with the love of his hoard of gold, to the point where he will not risk his life for his own kin and neighbors. In Tolkien’s magnificent story, Thorin pulls himself together, and restores his honor. It is not too late for NATO to do the same.
David Lindsay Jr is the author of “the Tay Son Rebellion,” about war in18th century Vietnam, and blogs at InconvenientNews.Net.

Thomas L. Friedman | China and Russia Are Giving Authoritarianism a Bad Name – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“The last decade looked like a good one for authoritarian regimes and a challenging one for democratic ones. Cybertools, drones, facial recognition technology and social networks seemed to make efficient authoritarians even more efficient and democracies increasingly ungovernable.

The West lost self-confidence — and both Russian and Chinese leaders rubbed it in, putting out the word that these chaotic democratic systems were a spent force.

And then a totally unexpected thing happened: Russia and China each overreached.

Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine and, to his surprise, invited an indirect war with NATO and the West. China insisted that it was smart enough to have its own local solution to a pandemic, leaving millions of Chinese underprotected or unprotected and, in effect, inviting a war with one of Mother Nature’s most contagious viruses — the Omicron mutation of SARS-CoV-2. It’s now led China to lock down all of Shanghai and parts of 44 other cities — some 370 million people.”