Hans Rosling’s reasons to be hopeful

When I first became aware of world affairs some 50 or 60 years ago, I imagined a future in which the United States was a beleaguered island of affluence in a world sunk in misery by overpopulation and exhaustion of natural resources.  My fears were fed by reading books such as William Vogt’s Road to Survival and later Paul Ehrlich’s The Population Bomb.

In these videos Swedish researcher Hans Rosling demonstates that today’s reality is very different from these preductions.  The world as a whole, with certain exceptions, is moving forward. The only problem is that the part of the world I live on is not keeping up.

Now, as my mutual fund prospectuses say, past performance is no guarantee of future results.  All the good news Rosling reports could be wiped off by global warming, by fossil fuel scarcity or by threats we’re not even aware of, or by failure to follow continue the efforts he describes.  Or, for that matter, there could be some technological breakthrough we don’t foresee that could change things for the better.

But Rosling isn’t saying that we should all sit back and let the world’s problems solve themselves.  He is saying things aren’t hopeless.  Which they aren’t.

[Postscript 12/15/10]  Click on Hans Rosling’s Chart is SERIOUSLY MISLEADING for a critique.

Click on Hans Rosling’s Gapminder World for background on the Trendanalyzer audiovisual software created by Hans Rosling’s Gapminder Foundation, which he uses in his presentations.  Trendanalyzer allows the viewer to see data with five different variables, shown in the vertical axis, the horizontal axis, the circles’ size, the circles’ color and elapsed time.

Click on Hans Rosling’s Gapminder for the Gapminder web site, which provides access to Rosling’s data and his latest videos.

Click on Google Public Data for more information displayed through Trendanalyzer software.

Click on Hans Rosling Wiki for Rosling’s biography.

TED is a non-profit organization which holds conferences on “ideas worth spreading.”  It was started in 1984 to facilitate exchanges of ideas among leaders in technology, entertainment and design.

Click on TED for more information on TED talks.

I think the most interesting and informative way to get this information is from Hans Rosling’s lectures. Below are some more of his videos.  I doubt of any viewer of this web log will have the time or interest to watch all of them, but some might want to watch some of them.

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5 Responses to “Hans Rosling’s reasons to be hopeful”

  1. ThinkAsTheyDoOrElse Says:

    Good to see someone pointing out the good news on population, it looks like the problem is taking care of itself. I’ve read that the population should level in about fifty years partly because there will be a lot more older people than younger or something like that.

    You really should consider that you have been mislead about global warming. Hansen’s own study showed a rate of warming of 0.6 degrees C of warming for the period 1993-2003.

    After 2003, the ocean data shows a less noisy signal because of the new Argo system. The data since then shows far less warming if any.

    You can see an ocean data graph here: http://wattsupwiththat.com/2010/02/05/more-on-ocean-heat-content-and-recent-revisions-to-the-data/


  2. philebersole Says:

    Since you bring up the subject of global warming, here are sources for the basic facts on the subject, which your link nit-picks.




  3. philebersole Says:

    Hans Rosling in his presentation on the rise of Asia mentions climate change, along with economic inequality and war, as one of the things that could change the trajectory of economic growth.

    Some 50 or 60 years ago, world population growth seemed as intractable a problem as global climate change seems today. The problems that existed in the world back then did not go away by themselves; they were alleviated – not eliminated – by the hard work of many people over decades. Our generation benefits from their efforts, and future generations will benefit from efforts today.

    The same is true of global climate change. Our generation will suffer because past generations ignored the problem. The question is whether we will let things grow even worse for future generations. I would like to think that my niece’s and nephew’s infant children will not curse my generation after we’re gone.

    Here are links giving the lineup of those who accept the fact of global climate change and those who deny it.



    The basic argument is that there are a number of things that affect global climate, but all of them are cyclical except the accumulation of greenhouse gasses, which will increase indefinitely until human beings act to limit them or until our industrial civilization crashes.

    If you want to explore the subject in more depth, click on the links below.




    The point of Hans Rosling’s lectures is to refute both denialists and defeatists concerning world problems.


  4. ThinkAsTheyDoOrElse Says:

    “but all of them are cyclical except the accumulation of greenhouse gasses, which will increase indefinitely until human beings act to limit them or until our industrial civilization crashes.”

    This is highly misleading. The effect of CO2 is logarithmic. The increase will approach an asymptote. It’s like adding paint to a window, once the window is painted, additional paint has no effect. CO2 only effects specific wavelengths and thus a limited number of windows relative to the total.

    The mathematical consequence of this is that so long as the rate of increase of CO2 remains constant the effect on the rate of temperature increase remains the same. The radiative model was giving a 0.6 degree C rate of increase per century. They now admit half that is missing.

    These are not talking points. This is the nub of the issue. I have followed this for five years. The 0.6 figure is straight from Hansen’s study.


    • philebersole Says:

      My level of knowledge of global climate change is no higher than that of the average Scientific American subscriber. On such matters I follow the consensus of experts who’ve devoted decades of their lives to studying such matters, unless I have a compelling reason to question them.

      The links I posted in earlier comments give the evidence that global warming is occurring, that it is the result of human activity, that it is causing bad things and, if it goes on, it will cause worse things. I would urge anybody who is hardy enough to have read the comments to this point to go to the links, consider the evidence and decide for themselves.

      You argue (as I understand it) that at some point the various greenhouse gasses will block 100 percent of the radiation in their various wave lengths, and that we need not be concerned about additional greenhouse gasses beyond this point. Not everybody agrees with this. Here is another view.


      In order to make your case, you would have to prove that this phenomenon is real and that the leveling-off point is somewhere short of catastrophe for human civilization. I would need a higher level of proof than the fact that a single set of data had to be revised.

      It could well be the case that adding X amount of greenhouse gasses would cause less of an average increase in the planetary temperature than did the previous X. That is different from saying that you can safely add greenhouse gasses to the atmosphere indefinitely without any cumulative effect.

      I could be wrong about this, but I would prefer that the experimental test be performed with some other planet than the one I live on.

      You link to a web log maintained by Anthony Watts, a former TV weatherman, critiquing the work of James Hansen, a respected but controversial climate scientist. Here is background on both of them.



      I would say Hansen knows more than Watts about climate change, but I would accept the consensus of climate change scientists over either.

      I think I have written as much as I can usefully write about this subject on this thread. There is good information on the links I provided and further information on the links at the bottom of the two Wikipedia articles.

      I would accept Hansen’s statements as more authoritative than Watts, but the consensus of climate scientists as more authoritative than eather.


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