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37-Nov-Dec-2008
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A-Hot Flat and CrowdedThomas Friedman, the foreign affairs columnist for the New York Times and three-time Pulitzer Prize winner, has authored best-selling books, including The World Is Flat ( 3.5 of 5 Stars July/Aug 2005) and The Lexus and the Olive Tree (1999).

The Topic: You’d have to be living on another planet not to have heard that this one is threatened by human-induced climate change. In his latest book, Thomas Friedman connects environmental problems to the challenges of globalization that he has laid out in his previous writings. Friedman argues that the United States needs to lead a "green revolution" on the scale of the space race that followed the launch of the Sputnik satellite by the Soviet Union in 1957. Such a revolution, based on advances in energy conservation and research, would not only protect the environment but also ensure American economic competitiveness in the face of new rivals in Asia and elsewhere. Simply put, the green revolution will be "the biggest single peacetime project humankind will have ever undertaken."
Farrar, Straus, and Giroux. 438 pages. $27.95. ISBN: 0374166854

Boston Globe 4 of 5 Stars
"Citing the roles of Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt in bringing about historic change, Friedman pines for a leader who will rein in the ‘American energy beast.’ … Hot, Flat, and Crowded is a compelling manifesto that deserves a wide reading, especially by members of Congress and candidates for president." Bill Williams

Washington Post 4 of 5 Stars
"Like it or not, we need Tom Friedman. … While pettifogging academics (a select few of whom he favors) complain that his catchy phrases and anecdotes sometimes obscure deeper analysis, by and large Friedman gets the big issues right." Joseph S. Nye Jr.

New York Times 3.5 of 5 Stars
"The litany of dangers has been told many times before, but Mr. Friedman’s voice is compelling and will be widely heard. … Economists will rightly have heartburn that these 412 pages never dwell much on the cost of different policy options, nor does Mr. Friedman ever question his claim that building a renewable-energy system is automatically a good idea because many new jobs will flow (at unknown expense) into these new industries." David G. Victor

Rocky Mountain News 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Let no one suggest that Tom Friedman doesn’t have ambitious goals. But the strength of Hot, Flat, and Crowded is that he is convincing that we must achieve these goals, and he backs up his arguments with reams of statistics, anecdotes and interviews with experts from around the world." Dan Danborn

Cleveland Plain Dealer 1.5 of 5 Stars
"Friedman is an autodidact, with all the brilliance and weaknesses of that breed. But an issue as important as climate change deserves better treatment. … Friedman’s most poignant early writing was his reflection on the implication of the 1982 war in Lebanon for the nature of Israeli democracy, the country he had loved fervently as a boy. I miss the Thomas Friedman who came of age in Beirut." Eric Fisher

Wall Street Journal 1.5 of 5 Stars
"Depressingly, Mr. Friedman throughout Hot, Flat, and Crowded simply does not talk seriously about the costs of his proposed solutions. … While occasionally interesting, Hot, Flat, and Crowded remains a one-sided plea for an incorrect analysis." Bjørn Lomborg

Critical Summary

It’s hard not to admire Thomas Friedman’s reporting, even if it sometimes feels like a sales pitch. That’s why those who agree with Friedman’s analysis were excited about this book: it may not be the best volume available on the subject, but it will encourage millions of people to think about the central role climate change should play in the national discourse. But Bjøorn Lomborg, author of Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist’s Guide to Global Warming, wrote that Friedman exaggerates the impact of global warming, uses random research to support his argument, and completely fails to take economics into account when he proposes solutions. Eric Fisher, on the other hand, was so annoyed with Friedman’s drastic tone and predilection for coining sociological "laws" that his review skirted Friedman’s argument and mocked its form, which may represent the reaction of some of those seeking a more sophisticated take on this timely subject.