Links for the Week Ending 5th May

  • Every month, I report the monthly average atmospheric Co2 concentration (for example here)—what I term the most important risk indicator in the world. On current trends, the monthly aveage number should pass the symbolic 400 parts per million threshold in 2014. The daily reading (as measured at Mauna Loa in Hawaii), however, has the possibility of recording the 400 number this month. In this connection, a new web site (called The Keeling Curve) has been launched by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego to keep track of the daily number and can be found here.
  • The MIT Technology Review has a interesting article by Jason Pontin titled “Why We Can’t Solve Big Problems”. In contrast with the Apollo programme, which showed the “transcendent power of technology”, the article asks why there is a “paucity of real innovations”. The answer, according to the article, lies with public and political willingness to tackle the big problems, efficient institutions with which to deploy technology and an understanding of whether a problem is actually rooted in technology as opposed to some other economic, sociological or political cause.
  • Stuart Staniford at Early Warning has takes a look this week at  oil supply and demand up until 2025. His conclusion is that there is a 25 million barrel per day shortfall, which basically means that price is going up and/or economic growth is going down.
  • I am always surprised how little most educated people know of the science of well-being and happiness. The field has seen an explosion of activity over the last few decades encompassing both psychology and economics, yet we only see an occasional article popping up in the serious press. The New York Times, however, had an excellent article last week on the psychology professor Dr Sonja Lyubomirsky, one of the founders of Positive Psychology (although she distances herself from the positive psychologist label these days). To me, concepts such as “hedonic adaption” should be part of the basic stock of knowledge of every thinking person.
  • BBC Radio 4’s programme “The Reunion” brings together some of the founders of the Centre for Alternative Technology in Machynlleth, Wales. What comes through is lots of pride in the pioneering work on sustainability and resilience back in the 1970s and frustration that so little has actually been achieved in changing society.

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