Ten years ago my life changed when I read the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Report, 2001.
The evidence made clear that global warming was no longer an issue of whether it existed. Rather the degree to which it might alter our planet and our human livelihoods.
Since then, despite the small and at times colourful array of naysayers, the vast majority of science and indeed public opinion has agreed. And although we still have a long long way to go before we overcome the immense problem posed by climate change, at least the renewable wind is blowing in vaguely the right direction.
A couple of years later I also read Mark Lynas’ excellent book ‘6 Degrees’ which collated much of the scientific evidence to predict the changes that may occur for each incremental degree of Earthly heating. In simple terms, at +1° we all enjoy longer summers and have more BBQ’s. At +3° many of our BBQ lawns have been eroded by rising water levels. And at +6° degrees we’re all BBQ’d.
For anyone wanting a sobering proposition of how things might turn out I happened also to read Cormac McCarthy’s post apocalyptic novel ‘The Road.’ No discernible reference to Pimms and Lemonade there.
However it’s just as well we are making these fragments of progress as the latest IPCC report, published earlier this week, paints an even bleaker picture than previously expected. Increasing poverty and hunger, erosion of food and resource security, and – OMG, perish the thought – a significant slow-down in global economic growth. The bangers are exploding as the salad dressing evaporates into a mist of ozone eating acid.
The full 2014 IPCC report can be found here.
Well, like the enlightenment philosopher Jeremy Bentham, it’s my view that happiness is the most important thing is life; that it’s our personal and collective human objective. And whether you subscribe to that opinion or not, global warming is a clear threat to our future happiness and that of future generations.
But to my mind, climate change is merely the tip of the proverbial melting iceberg. We have a far more significant problem at hand. The resource constraint. Each year we consume way more resources than the Earth produces. And with developing nations understandably increasing their consumption levels towards western standards as the global population rises towards 9 billion by 2050, it doesn’t really look like we’ll be reducing that deficit anytime soon.
As the report suggests, get ready for more than just a ban on watering the shrubs before the guests arrive for an emissions free, low energy BBQ. Resource wars among nuclear neighbours becomes less of a completely absurdity.
Besides, the new science of happiness tells us that our well-being doesn’t come from over-consuming vast amounts of sausages on our coal fired BBQs anyway. Our current consumption patterns threaten our happiness as well as our future viability.
However one of the problems with reducing our consumption is that it affects the holy grail of growth. The mantra that no one dare challenge. 250 years ago when modern economics was invented economic growth was correctly a valid proxy for improving collective well-being. But as our economies have matured this is no longer the case. The continued global fixation with growth threatens our well-being and ultimately our race.
Refocusing our attention away from consumption and growth, towards human well-being, bringing the happiness objective back to the heart of the economic equation and our value systems, means we have at least a chance of solving the resource constraint, global warming and our personal and collective BBQs for generations to come.
Next post – if you can believe it – find out why I’m actually optimistic about happiness and global warming with the changes it will necessarily bring about for humanity. You can check it out >>here<<