Hans Rosling – 200 years of global change

(h/t Andy Skuce)

Andy also highlights some key points from the video which are worth highlighting:

  • He commends the IPCC AR5 report as being “as good as science can do”. He says the difficulties of communicating the uncertainties in climate science are far greater than for other science communication problems that he has been involved in professionally, such as smoking and cancer. He goes as far to say that, in this regard,climate science will be a model for other sciences. That’s high praise indeed from one of the world’s expert science communicators.
  • Using sea-level rise as an example, he points out how the effects of climate change will be felt very differently in different parts of the world. In northern Sweden, post-glacial rebound means that the land may rise faster than the sea level and no effect will be felt at all this century. On the other hand, in Bangladesh, sea level rise will be catastrophic, displacing millions from their homes and farms unless extraordinary adaptation measures are taken. (3:15)
  • He places human development and population in historical perspective. He shows how rising prosperity, driven in large part by coal, has reduced the appalling levels of child mortality that existed prior to industrialization. He says: “There is a myth that humans used to live in ecological balance … they died in ecological balance”.  (7:15)
  • Despite the economic emergence of China over recent decades, the Chinese today produce less CO2 per capita than Americans or Britons did in 1900. (11:45)
  • Extreme poverty today results in the deaths of seven million children per year. According to Rosling, this is, for now, a much bigger problem than climate change. “If you burn coal, you save children”. (16:10)
  • He places the responsibility for dealing with climate change firmly on the shoulders of the rich countries. How can Swedes tell Mozambique not to build coal power stations, when the there is still a coal power station operating just one kilometre from the Swedish Academy? (13:00) And how can we dare tell the emerging economies like China that they cannot aspire to live like we do? (16:30)

That last point relates to an email conversation I had the other day about the Keystone XL pipeline. As readers of Planet3.0 might know I have been somewhat critical about the anti-pipelines movement (be it Keystone XL, Northern Gateway, Kinder Morgan or something else), my basic position (check the link for something more substantial) is that as long as selling the tar sand bitumen is massively profitable then the anti-pipeline strategy boils down to getting governments and corporations to turn their backs and walk away from huge sums of money. This is a never-ending fight, as each pipeline is defeated a new one is proposed, and it is not a fight I am want to get dragged into. However, reducing the demand for fossil fuels on the other hand would lower the price of oil and put a cap on tar sand production. This is a fight worth fighting for.

But as Hans Rosling states “How can Swedes tell Mozambique not to build coal power stations, when the there is still a coal power station operating just one kilometre from the Swedish Academy? The same applies for us. How can we tell the rest of the world to stop using fossil fuels if we wont even stop the expansion of the tar sands; one of the dirtiest forms of oil? We can’t. Not with any moral authority anyway.

The real question concerning the tar sands, is what is the best way to slow, then stop, then eventually reverse their continued expansion.

One thought on “Hans Rosling – 200 years of global change

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  1. I really enjoy the presentations from Hans Rosling and think he makes many good points. One thing that does worry me is the oversimplification of complex issues into glib one-liners.

    “If you burn coal, you save children”. Let’s take DR Congo for example. Will burning coal save lives in the DR Congo? Maybe but I doubt it. The M23 rebels have been fighting there for years, aided by Rwanda. And armed from the West, Russia and China. Economic growth in many African countries is not necessarily something wanted by arms dealers, warlords or corrupt leaders and these factors are not things that are easy to put into a simple graph.

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