Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Carbon Price Should Be Complemented by a Population Policy

I welcome the Australian Government’s commitment to putting a price on carbon. Australia has the highest emissions per capita in the world, higher even than the United States. Australia’s households and business are at risk of being left behind in a global economy which is already moving to cut pollution – which will hurt our economy and cost jobs.

Population growth and climate change are inextricably interwoven. Population growth increases greenhouse gas emissions, and in turn the effects of global warming are exacerbated by large populations. Australia’s emissions-intensive economy ensures that rapid growth translates into increased greenhouse emissions. Treasury-led modelling indicates that Australia’s emissions will grow from 553 million tonnes in 2000 to 774 million tonnes in 2020 of which 83 per cent is attributable to population growth.

According to a study by Bob Birrell and Ernest Healy, if Australia’s population were to stabilise at its current levels there would be a reduction of about 276 million tonnes in green house emissions, as opposed to a net migration of 180,000 and a projected population of 31.6 million by 2050. This is what is called a base case ‘business as usual’ (BAU) scenario. The Third Intergenerational Report in 2010 has projected a population of 36 million by 2050, and with a net migration of 215,600 in 2009-10, we are currently well beyond ‘business as usual’. It’s pretty hard to reduce your carbon footprint if you keep adding more feet.

Population policy should be a part of the plan to contain greenhouse emissions.

1 comment:

  1. Absolutely correct, Kelvin. Feet count.

    But I have a reservation about carbon tax. I'd suggest that the only reason global population has been able to grow so large is because of technologies that effectively utilize fossil fuel. Globally, numbers seem to have overshot resources and privation and strife are on the increase. Will carbon taxes cause more suffering?

    Another thing, carbon is a truly wonderful atom. Hydrocarbons are a brilliant way to store energy. (That is why animals and plants evolved hydrocarbon chemistry into their very essence. This is one instance where evolution did come up with a design worthy of God --- or vice versa.)

    I think it is counterproductive to give carbon a bad rap. Carbon is no more a pollutant than oxygen. It is a matter of balance... as in all things, including human numbers.

    We are out of balance. The best solution, in my opinion, will be the one that gets us into balance with a minimum of suffering. I don't hold out much hope for real progress until Kelvin's level of enlightenment becomes the political norm rather than a remarkable exception...