Thursday, October 16, 2014

17/10/2014: Sustainability - Over the next 40 years companies and individuals must do their fair share!

"You have in front of you a depressed man with a smiling face," Professor Jorgen Randers of BI Norwegian Business School told the 800-plus delegates attending this year's Biomin World Nutrition Conference in Munich, Germany this morning in his keynote address.

Professor Jorgen Randers addressing the World Nutrition Forum in Munich

Dr Randers as professor of climate strategy addressed the question of '2052 - A global forecast for the next 40 years'  went on to say, "I have spent the last 40 years working for sustainable development, working for a sustainable world and I have failed.

"The world is less sustainable today than I started my hard labours on sustainable development 40 years ago. The simplest way of indicating this is by the climate situation.
Food will satisfy global demand - but not need

"The simplest way to demonstrate this is that every year humanity is producing twice as much CO2 as is being absorbed by the earth. The remainder stays in the atmosphere with a half-life of more than 100 years and as this concentration goes up the temperature goes up. This will continue until we stop emitting CO2 into the atmosphere.

"A highly unsustainable situation where dramatic change is needed if we want to move in the direction of sustainability.

With a projected world population of eight billion by 2040, he pointed to three factors that will impact the development of the world as it progresses over the next 40 years would see world populations increases being to decline as the trend by women to have less children continue below the 1.8 in both the developed and developing world.

The second major impact on countries will be the overall decline in GDP which will slow down as populations progressively move from the land to factories and then into health care - or caring for the elderly.

"Economic development is shifting towards health care as clearly shown in the USA, Switzerland and other developed countries."

He said 17 percent of the USA's working population is already in the health care sector and probably more were needed.

"Productively increases based on output per person is lower in these areas."

Professor Randers says that the GDP growth rate in these countries will probably be zero percent over the next 40 years while poorer countries will see growth in primary and secondary employment as they continue to go through the steps from farm to factory to health care eventually. He sees China following the path both Japan and Korea have taken.

He also sees developed countries spending resources not only on health care but also overcoming new problems associated with pollution, climate change, etc.

"We will have to spend labour and capital to combat these things."

Other observations included solar and wind power squeezing out fossil fuel use long before reserves of these energy sources are depleted; CO2 emissions will peak in 2030; temperatures will increase by two degrees by 2050 but will not bring about catastrophic climate collapse before 2050; world food is enough to satisfy demand up to 2050 but significant starvation will remain as is currently the case and was in 1970; food will not be in short supply but rather people will not have sufficient income to pay for it.

"Starvation will not be caused by physical limitations, but by income constraints. Food production will flow as demand grows and not as the need for food grows."

"How can you be sure I'm right?" he asked his audience.

"We know from past experience that people will continue to choose the cheapest solutions - the cheapest and most profitable. This is a fundamental driver with most people not wanting to make a sacrifice today for an advantage in the future."

He said moving just two percent of the world's workforce from 'dirty' jobs to 'clean' jobs in environmental terms and moving just two percent of the world's capital into clean energies will solve the problems we face.

"But that's more expensive than doing nothing. So it won't happen."

Optimists believe the market will solve the problem. This will not work either, given the short-termism of capitalism and the need to be profitable, he explained.

He believes the suggested strategy of businesses aligning itself with social requirements to help solve these problems will not work either, given that carbon taxes have not worked.

He concluded by saying that companies need to work politically to bring about long term change, especially if we are to improve world hunger and that we as private individuals need to do our fair share "to help turn the ship in time," he concluded.

Individuals need to do their fair share "to help turn the ship in time" - Professor Randers

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