Tipping Point 01

Posted on 12 November 2010


Turns out I’m blogging the Tipping Point conference from here.

The opening last night kicked off with a presentation from Dr Stefan Hajkowicz from CSIRO. He talked about a whole bunch of topics; went through so many interlocking issues of climate change, food production and agriculture, global poverty and malnutrition, and economics.

It was all linked to CSIRO’s Global Foresight project which is exploring the options and possibilities for the world and is one of the guiding principles for what research and other projects CSIRO will invest in over the next 20 years.

Here are the highlights of his talk:

Climate change cuts across everything that we (CSIRO) do.

The Foresight work has uncovered some interesting things about climate change:

  • There is a direct relationship between armed conflict and resources. There are 200 countries in the world that share rivers and they are 2.5 times more likely to have conflicts with each other, and this incidence is much higher again when the river is in drought. So one of the impacts of climate change is the possible increased risk of armed conflicts in the future as resources get more scarce.
  • The book The Rational Optimist points out that all statistics for quality of life for people have been improving ever since there were humans. So while it is easy to look into the future with a doom and gloom outlook, it’s important to remember that life expectancy has been rising for the last two centuries; while there are still hundreds of millions of malnourished people in the world, there are fewer every year. Each generation has been better off than the one before it. So another angle is to challenge ourselves on how much worse it could be.
  • As more of the almost three billion people in the world living in poverty find ways to get themselves out of it, they’re going to use more carbon and more of the world’s resources, including food. That leads to global food security and more agricultural activity. Climate change causes drought and a loss of agricultural land which lowers food production.
  • Our knowledge of agriculture is always increasing so we producing more with the same amount of land and resources.
  • We should be able to feed everyone. Theoretically we should be able to. People only starve as a result of bad policy, corruption, warfare and disconnected trade.
  • Exploring the science of climate change is very important but we also need to look at the human aspect to achieve the changes we want to see in the future.

Then he talked about economics which I’ll post about later.

You can see all my Tipping Point posts under the Tipping Point tag.