Population ponzi overruns Australia’s emissions targets

By Leith van Onselen

Late last year, it was revealed that Australia’s carbon emissions are on the rise and the nation is on track to badly miss the scientifically based targets set by the government’s Climate Change Authority, as well as those under the Paris agreement.

Then in July, the federal government released data showing that Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions have continued to grow, broadly matching Australia’s population growth.

Now, the UN Environment Program’s Emissions Gap 2017 report has found that Australia’s emissions will “far exceed” the 2030 Paris pledge. From The SMH:

National pledges to cut carbon emissions fall well short of what’s needed to avoid dangerous climate change, with Australia likely to miss its 2030 commitment by a wide margin, a United Nations body said…

The target is to stop global average temperatures from rising 2 degrees or more above pre-industrial levels. Change on that scale is expected to cause major droughts, food shortages and damaging sea level rise…

“There is an urgent need for accelerated short-term action and enhanced longer-term national ambition, if the goals of the Paris Agreement are to remain achievable,” the report said…

Australia’s goal is to reduce 2005 emissions 26-28 per cent by 2030. The report noted government projections point to Australian emissions reaching 592 million tonnes of CO2-equvialent a year by 2030, compared with the targeted range of 429-440 MTCO2 needed by then.

Independent analyses “confirm that the emissions are set to far exceed” the target, it said.

Independent analysis conducted for the Greens has found the remaining abatement needed for 2021-2030 amounted to 513 to 893 million tonnes of CO₂ if the electricity sector merely tracks the 26-28 per cent reduction.

“The latest sham, the National Energy Guarantee, doesn’t require the electricity sector to do the ‘heavy lifting’, which shifts the burden to agriculture, industry and transport, where there are no effective policies for pollution reduction at all,” Adam Bandt, the Greens climate spokesman, said.

While Australia’s emissions depend on many factors – including our energy use patterns and how we live – nobody can deny the fact that Australia’s high population growth (immigration) policy will make it next to impossible to meet our targets nor safeguard Australia’s environment.

As shown in the next chart, which comes from the Productivity Commission, Australia’s population will reach more than 40 million mid-century under current immigration settings, at least 13 million more than what would occur under zero net overseas migration (NOM):

ScreenHunter_15977 Nov. 09 07.44

That’s a helluva lot of extra people consuming resources and emitting greenhouse gasses. It also means that Australia would need to cut its per capita emissions by around two-thirds just to keep total emissions at current levels (other things equal), let alone reduce them.

But don’t just take my word for it. In May last year, a University of Adelaide-led study entitled Implications of Australia’s Population Policy for Future Greenhouse Gas Emissions Targets noted the direct (obvious) link between population size, emissions and environmental degredation:

It is clear from our demographic modelling and the available data on net overseas migrants that Australia’s future population is entirely contingent on its immigration policies… The current demographic state of the Australian population is such that if all net immigration were halted today, the population would stabilize by the mid-2040s and decline only slightly thereafter, achieving nearly the same population size that it is today by mid-century…

Whether Australians choose to limit their future population growth is entirely another matter. The country’s natural systems have already suffered severe degradation of ecosystems…

In this context, any policy that seeks an even larger Australian population would need to be carefully focused on how to achieve this goal sustainably, while mitigating (and, in some situations, reversing) these threatening processes. Given the rising environmental damage globally from a large and growing human population (Bradshaw & Brook 2014), Australia has the rare option to limit this damage by adjusting its immigration policies accordingly…

Based on current population policies, the projected growth in the Australian population will make its already challenging future emissions-reduction goals even more difficult to achieve. In addition to the rising pressure of Australia’s population on its ecosystems, the country’s future greenhouse gas emissions are also partially tied to its immigration policy…

With a 2020 target of 5 per cent reduction in emissions (relative to 2000), a 27 per cent reduction by 2030 (relative to 2005) and potentially an 80 per cent reduction by 2050, Australia has no credible mechanisms in place to achieve these goals… it seems unlikely that Australia will be able to achieve either of these two targets without substantial policy changes across population, energy, agriculture and environmental sectors.

Given that Australia has less than 14 years to meet the 2030 target, and less than 34 years to meet the putative 2050 target, and that a reduction in per capita emissions of 83.5 per cent would still be required even under the extreme scenario of no net migration…

Irrespective of these challenges, any increase in Australia’s population will make these targets even more difficult, such that a business-as-usual projection (scenario 1) would require a fivefold greater reduction in per capita emissions to reach a 2050 target of 80 per cent reduction compared with the zero-immigration scenario and produce ~10 per cent more emissions…

More population growth driven by immigration will hamper Australia’s ability to meet its future climate change mitigation commitments and worsen its already stressed ecosystems, unless a massive technological transformation of Australia’s energy sector is immediately forthcoming.

And let’s not forget that it’s not just Australia’s emissions that are being made worse via never-ending mass immigration, but also the destruction of Australia’s natural habitat. Let’s recall what the latest federal government State of the Environment report said on the matter, via The Conversation:

Australia’s population growth and economic activity continue to pose major environmental challenges, according to a comprehensive five-yearly stocktake of the country’s environmental health.

The federal government’s State of the Environment 2016 report (prepared by a group of independent experts, which I chaired), released today, predicts that population growth and economic development will be the main drivers of environmental problems such as land-use change, habitat destruction, invasive species, and climate change…

We continue to lose agricultural lands through urban encroachment. Over the past five years land-clearing rates stabilised in all states and territories except Queensland, where the rate of clearing increased.

Coastal waterways are threatened by pollutants, including microplastics and nanoparticles…

Population growth in our major cities, along with Australia’s reliance on private cars, is leading to greater traffic volumes, which increase traffic congestion and delays as well as pollution…

Australia needs to support the Paris Agreement on emissions reduction if it expects other nations to do so. Yet population growth is clearly threatening our ability to do so.

Again I ask: why are the Australian Greens conspicuously silent about Australia’s mass immigration program? When will they live up to their name and lobby to slash immigration on behalf of Australia’s environment?

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Unconventional Economist
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  1. The Australian ethic is money and consumption. We practise religiously. Justice and sustainabity are topics to talk about over drinks.. Heck, we disiherit our kids. Why even mention the grandkids.

    • Emissions per head, I think we are on track!

      And we are not alone, have a look at Germany, India, CHINA!!!! All their emissions are climbing (a lot) per head. In China’s case, there is a good argument that emissions are under-estimated badly.

      The only country that has reduced it massively is the US (~30%), and that was entirely accidental; down the oil shale technology development. As a by-prodyuct, put all the coal producers out of business.

      Trump cannot fix that one…

  2. Only give out PR visas in exchange for 10 Powerwalls. This proposal would rip apart the Greens because A) it would boost renewables but B) slow down “skilled” immigration because a great chunk of “skilled” immigrants are living hand to mouth – thus unable to cough up $110k for 10 Powerwalls.

  3. “…at least 13 million more than what would occur under zero net overseas migration (NOM): That’s a helluva lot of extra people consuming resources and emitting greenhouse gasses…”

    Yes, but The Greens don’t like talking about ecological footprints and sustainability. It’s a topic for middle aged white men.

    Instead The Greens will link arms and sing Kumbaya and keep Australia safe from a decent discussion about population growth.

    I’m gobsmacked that we have a party in Australia with the brass to call itself ‘The Greens’ but not the brains to spot the elephant in the living room. We needed another party (Sustainable Australia) to do the heavy lifting – and split The Green’s vote next election. How politically dumb is that?!! In The Greens political heartland (urban Sydney and Melbourne) this is going to cost them in the next election. If they go down to the wire with no population policy they are going to be wiped out and buried in a political grave next to the Australian Democrats.

    • I hear you property investors like it hot anyway. Is that why you dress in nothing but a bowtie?

      Think of the reduced maintenance costs on your air-conditioning and insulation lacking rental properties as Tennants abandon them on extremely hot days to live in 24 hr shopping centers and servos.
      This global warming is more profits for everyone!

  4. Because the dopey greens are far more interested in virtue-signalling than doing anything actually “green”, a la the infantile Jenny Leong sternly and earnestly flipping the bird at a newspaper article.

    The party of children and fools.

    • blacktwin997MEMBER

      Bit harsh on children there Mr Walker but yes, Jenny Leong is a first tier idiot and entirely emblematic of the Greens.

    • t is not just the greens who are stupid.
      The party for every single one of us is over, and not one of us is innocent.

  5. I agree that our population is growing too fast but carbon emissions should not be an excuse. Australia could have a population of 100mil and still meet the Paris agreements IF by 2030 we were all driving electric cars and all but a bit of peaking power was produced by via renewable sources. (And maybe cutting down on meat and plane trips – by building a high speed train down the East Coast of Australia.)

    You can have 100million houses running their air-conditioners of full power 24×7 and driving big arsed SUV’s if the power is generated by low carbon sources!

    I am still pretty confident that by 2030, even without government intervention, that almost all cars sold will be electric only, almost every house will have PV & batteries and most power will be generated via renewables – just on the economics alone. I predict that by mid to late 2020’s electric cars will get to the ‘magical’ 1000km on a single charge and be the same cost to buy as a petrol car. From that time the move to electric cars with be iphone’esk.

  6. Why won’t the Greens mention cutbacks to Australia’s record mass immigration program?
    Well, given a the choice between the environmental damage from mass immigration and building a big ‘brown man’ Australia, the racist Greens will pick the ‘brown man’ nebulous multicultural ideology every time.
    I’m quite certain that if the mass immigration intake was more than 80% white, instead of the other way round, the Greens would be screaming at every opportunity to cut the program drastically.