There are often blanket claims that the world is facing more problems than ever but there is a lack of empirical data to show where things have deteriorated or in fact improved. In this book, some of the world’s leading economists discuss ten problems that have blighted human development, ranging from malnutrition, education, and climate change, to trade barriers and armed conflicts. Costs of the problems are quantified in percent of GDP, giving readers a unique opportunity to understand the development of each problem over the past century and the likely development into the middle of this century, and to compare the size of the challenges. For example: how bad was air pollution in 1900? How has it deteriorated and what about the future? Did climate change cost more than malnutrition in 2010? This pioneering initiative to provide answers to many of these questions will undoubtedly spark debate amongst a wide readership.Sponsored Ads
Climate experts have long predicted that temperatures would rise in parallel with greenhouse gas emissions. But, for 15 years, they haven’t. In a SPIEGEL interview, meteorologist Hans von Storch discusses how this “puzzle” might force scientists to alter what could be “fundamentally wrong” models.
SPIEGEL: What could be wrong with the models?
Storch: There are two conceivable explanations — and neither is very pleasant for us. The first possibility is that less global warming is occurring than expected because greenhouse gases, especially CO2, have less of an effect than we have assumed. This wouldn’t mean that there is no man-made greenhouse effect, but simply that our effect on climate events is not as great as we have believed. The other possibility is that, in our simulations, we have underestimated how much the climate fluctuates owing to natural causes.
SPIEGEL: That sounds quite embarrassing for your profession, if you have to go back and adjust your models to fit with reality…
It sounds to me like the models may have a couple of problems. First, there is a calibration problem. Calibrating a model using data within a certain range, then using the models outside of that range. Second, it appears that climate models use the normal distribution. This assumes things happen independently rather than some kind of feedback loop process. The use of the normal distribution represents a serious problem if it truly is being used.
How Resource Scarcity and Climate Change Could Produce a Global Explosion
Brace yourself. You may not be able to tell yet, but according to global experts and the U.S. intelligence community, the earth is already shifting under you. Whether you know it or not, you’re on a new planet, a resource-shock world of a sort humanity has never before experienced.
Two nightmare scenarios — a global scarcity of vital resources and the onset of extreme climate change — are already beginning to converge and in the coming decades are likely to produce a tidal wave of unrest, rebellion, competition, and conflict. Just what this tsunami of disaster will look like may, as yet, be hard to discern, but experts warn of “water wars” over contested river systems, global food riots sparked by soaring prices for life’s basics, mass migrations of climate refugees (with resulting anti-migrant violence), and the breakdown of social order or the collapse of states. At first, such mayhem is likely to arise largely in Africa, Central Asia, and other areas of the underdeveloped South, but in time all regions of the planet will be affected.
To appreciate the power of this encroaching catastrophe, it’s necessary to examine each of the forces that are combining to produce this future cataclysm.
Even without the problems associated with resources and climate change, the geopolitical world has reached a tipping point. Problems over resources and climate change are just going to make things even worse.
Winner Take All: China’s Race for Resources and What It Means for the World
Commodities permeate virtually every aspect of modern daily living, but for all their importance—their breadth, their depth, their intricacies, and their central role in daily life—few people who are not economists or traders know how commodity markets work. Almost every day, newspaper headlines and media commentators scream warnings of impending doom–shortages of arable land, clashes over water, and political conflict as global demand for fossil fuels outstrips supply. The picture is bleak, but our grasp of the details and the macro shifts in commodities markets remain blurry.
Winner Take All is about the commodity dynamics that the world will face over the next several decades. In particular, it is about the implications of China’s rush for resources across all regions of the world. The scale of China’s resource campaign for hard commodities (metals and minerals) and soft commodities (timber and food) is among the largest in history. To be sure, China is not the first country to launch a global crusade to secure resources. From Britain’s transcontinental operations dating back to the end of the 16th century, to the rise of modern European and American transnational corporations between the mid 1860’s and 1870’s, the industrial revolution that powered these economies created a voracious demand for raw materials and created the need to go far beyond their native countries.
So too is China’s resource rush today. Although still in its early stages, already the breadth of China’s operation is awesome, and seemingly unstoppable. China’s global charge for commodities is a story of China’s quest to secure its claims on resource assets, and to guarantee the flow of inputs needed to continue to drive economic development. Moyo, an expert in global commodities markets, explains the implications of China’s resource grab in a world of diminishing resources.
Resource Wars: The New Landscape of Global Conflict With a New Introduction by the Author: Michael T. Klare
From the oilfields of Saudi Arabia to the Nile delta, from the shipping lanes of the South China Sea to the pipelines of Central Asia, Resource Wars looks at the growing impact of resource scarcity on the military policies of nations.
International security expert Michael T. Klare argues that in the early decades of the new millennium, wars will be fought not over ideology but over access to dwindling supplies of precious natural commodities. The political divisions of the Cold War, Klare asserts, have given way to a global scramble for oil, natural gas, minerals, and water. And as armies throughout the world define resource security as a primary objective, widespread instability is bound to follow, especially in those areas where competition for essential materials overlaps with long-standing territorial and religious disputes. In this clarifying view, the recent explosive conflict between the United States and Islamic extremism stands revealed as the predictable consequence of consumer nations seeking to protect the vital resources they depend on.
A much-needed assessment of a changed world, Resource Wars is a compelling look at warfare in an era of rampant globalization and intense economic competition.
Scientists are struggling to explain a slowdown in climate change that has exposed gaps in their understanding and defies a rise in global greenhouse gas emissions.
Often focused on century-long trends, most climate models failed to predict that the temperature rise would slow, starting around 2000. Scientists are now intent on figuring out the causes and determining whether the respite will be brief or a more lasting phenomenon.
So there are modeling problems. As I said a couple of years ago, when you calibrate a model based on data within a certain range, and then go outside of that range, then your model might not work correctly. When I heard scientists confidently explain how good their climate models were, I knew we were in for trouble. Because a real scientist would understand that moving into new territory is always dangerous.
Now Beijing wants even more dough. The Doha conference produced one advance for climate activists by establishing the principle that developed nations have a responsibility for compensating poorer ones for damage due to climate change. The rich had previously agreed to provide assistance for clean energy and other purposes but had not acknowledged an obligation for fixing the changing climate.
That changed in Doha. “It is a breakthrough,” said Martin Khor of the South Centre, an organization of 52 developing states, to the BBC. “The term Loss and Damage is in the text—this is a huge step in principle. Next comes the fight for cash.”
Crisis, in short, is the new normal.
And while the business community determinedly seeks opportunity in troubled times, even many an entrepreneur views the years since the financial crisis of 2008 as what Rich Lesser, the new chief executive of the Boston Consulting Group, called “a higher period of turbulence and uncertainty in the global economy than we have experienced in a very long time.”
The days in which “quants” and algorithms reigned supreme are gone, their increasingly untrackable results having helped the financial system spin out of control in 2008 and 2009. The heady triumph of capitalism after 1989 is also a distant memory, although its chief effect — that capital went global — remains a driving force of our age.
But global capital does not solve big world issues: debt and financial crisis, political paralysis or gridlock, the transformative effects of the digital revolution, climate change, resource shortages, shifting demographics.
“a higher period of turbulence and uncertainty in the global economy than we have experienced in a very long time.”
I have been thinking more and more that this type of period should last forever, or until a big crash is allowed to happen. When a positive feedback loop system goes from a pre-collapse state to a collapse state, and the collapse state is heavily suppressed, then new feedback will continue to build on an unstable base. The only way to fix the problem is through a massive crash, then start over.
Since just about everybody wants no crash, the West will continue to remain in an unstable state just like Japan.
The World Bank has produced a massive 450 page report on the potentially devastating impact climate change is likely to have on Arab countries. This matters to everyone and not just from the standpoint that we should all empathize with and seek to relief suffering.
The harsher the conditions get, the more restive and radical the populations of Arab states are likely to become, with hugely destabilizing consequences for all of us.
The article blows off Armageddon 1.0 – nuclear war and skips on to version 2.0: Emerging diseases, climate change and computer hacking. You can see modern liberalism at work in this list. The systemic risk from other societies is incidental. Yes, inconsiderate societies can cause problems through CO2 emissions or rogue hackers, but it is not possible that they would seek something more sinister, like nuclear attack. So when Russia, China or Iran threaten us with real harm, they don’t really mean it. I’m wondering if I should put modern liberalism at the front of the list of emerging risks?
Emerging diseases. The influenza pandemic of 2009 is a case in point. Because of rising prosperity and travel, the world has grown more conducive to a destructive flu virus in recent years, many public health officials believe. Most people probably remember 2009 as a time when health officials overreacted. But in truth, the 2009 virus came from nowhere, and by the time it reached the radar screens of health officials, it was already well on its way to spreading far and wide.
“H1N1 caught us all with our pants down,” …
Climate change. Climate is another potentially urgent risk. …
Computer hacking. The computer industry has already made it possible for computers to handle a variety of tasks without human intervention. …
Unusually high rainfall allowed a population boom between 440 and 660 A.D., but subsequent dry conditions between 660 and 1000 A.D. aligns with known periods of political instability in the Mayan civilization, Kennett theorizes.
The dry climate conditions, which may have included extended periods of drought, may have hastened the Maya collapse, the researchers say.
Food shortages, natural disasters, energy supply issues and the spread of epidemics are some of the possible climate-related perils the U.S. military needs to prepare to deal with, the National Academies claim in a new report released Friday.
Broder says the report warns of “clusters of apparently unrelated events exacerbated by a warming climate will create more frequent but unpredictable crises in water supplies, food markets, energy supply chains and public health systems… Climate-driven crises could lead to internal instability or international conflict and might force the United States to provide humanitarian assistance or, in some cases, military force to protect vital energy, economic or other interests.”