1. Finland ranked happiest country for fifth year
Afghanistan, Lebanon come last on list
Finland has been named the world’s happiest country for the fifth year running, in an annual UN-sponsored index that ranked Afghanistan as the unhappiest, closely followed by Lebanon.
The latest list was completed before the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Bulgaria, Romania and Serbia recorded the biggest boosts in wellbeing.
The largest falls in the World Happiness table, released on Friday, came in Lebanon, Venezuela and Afghanistan.
Lebanon, which is facing economic meltdown, fell to second from last on the index of 146 countries, just below Zimbabwe.
War-scarred Afghanistan, already bottom of the table last year, saw its humanitarian crisis deepen since the Taliban returned to power last August following the pull-out of US-led troops.
“This (index) presents a stark reminder of the material and immaterial damage that war does to its many victims,” co-author Jan-Emmanuel De Neve said.
The World Happiness Report, now in its 10th year, is based on people’s own assessment of their happiness, as well as economic and social data.
It assigns a happiness score on a scale of zero to 10, based on an average of data over a three-year period.
Northern Europeans once again dominated the top spots — with the Danes second to the Finns, followed by the Icelandic, the Swiss and the Dutch.
The United States rose three places to 16th, one ahead of Britain. France climbed to 20th, its highest ranking yet.
As well as a personal sense of wellbeing, based on Gallup polls in each country, the happiness score takes account of GDP, social support, personal freedom and levels of corruption.
This year the authors also used data from social media to compare people’s emotions before and after the COVID-19 pandemic. They found “strong increases in anxiety and sadness” in 18 countries but a fall in feelings of anger.
2. Great Barrier Reef suffers severe coral bleaching
UN set to reconsider its heritage status
Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is suffering widespread and severe coral bleaching due to high ocean temperatures two years after a mass bleaching event, a government agency said on Friday.
The report by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Authority, which manages the world’s largest coral reef ecosystem, comes three days before a United Nations delegation is due to assess whether the reef’s World Heritage listing should be downgraded due to the ravages of climate change.
“Weather patterns over the next few weeks will be critical in determining the overall extent and severity of coral bleaching across the Marine Park,” the authority said.
“Bleaching has been detected across the Marine Park — it is widespread but variable, across multiple regions, ranging in impact from minor to severe,” the authority added.
The reef has suffered significantly from coral bleaching caused by unusually warm ocean temperatures in 2016, 2017 and 2020. The previous bleaching damaged two-thirds of the coral.
The environmental group Greenpeace said the severe and widespread coral bleaching suffered during a La Niña weather pattern that is associated with cooler Pacific Ocean temperatures was evidence of the Australian government’s failure to protect the coral from the impacts of climate change.
“This is a sure sign that climate change caused by burning coal, oil and gas is threatening the very existence of our reef,” Greenpeace Australia Pacific Climate Impacts Campaigner Martin Zavan said in a statement.
In July last year, Australia garnered enough international support to defer an attempt by UNESCO, the United Nations’ cultural organisation, to downgrade the reef’s World Heritage status to “in danger“ because of damage caused by climate change.