Earlier this week, I published two articles (here and here) explaining why Australia’s mass immigration program – which adds around a Canberra-worth of population every year – will make it next to impossible to meet our Paris Agreement targets to reduce carbon emissions.
The logic is simple: adding millions more people to Australia’s population means millions more energy users and carbon emitters, making achieving our emissions targets so much more difficult.
Several commenters attacked my view, claiming that climate change is a global problem. Therefore, it doesn’t matter where people live.
Moreover, they claimed that slowing Australia’s population growth would do little to stop global over-population. This is true; although exactly the same argument could be made that reducing Australia’s emissions would do little to lower global carbon emissions.
Ultimately, Australia can only control what happens within its own borders. And growing the population so fast is unambiguously negative for Australia’s environment, water security, liveability, housing affordability, as well as meeting our emissions reduction targets. So why go down this path?
While climate change is a global problem, most commentators (myself included) believe that Australia should act locally. The only difference is that, unlike me, many of these same commentators do not believe that Australia should act locally on population growth, even though it too is a global problem. Spot the contradiction?
There is another problem with their view that it doesn’t matter where people live. The fact is that when migrants from developing nations come to Australia, their carbon footprints grow significantly.
A case in point is China, which is now Australia’s second largest migrant group, as well as one of the fastest growing:
A recent Swinburn University study showed that Chinese-born migrants have giant ecological footprints that dwarfs the Australian-born population:
In 2010, China overtook the United Kingdom as Australia’s largest source of permanent migrants (a position now held by India). Since then, China-born migrants have averaged around 15% of the annual intake…
Our findings are based on an extensive face-to-face survey of 61 China-born and 72 Australia-born residents. The main findings were as follows.
Within a decade of arrival in Melbourne, China-born urban consumption patterns were more than three times their consumption before their migration…
It is apparent that consumer acculturation is the major process by which Chinese migrants have come to mirror the host society in Australia. Cultural integration is less evident – it lags consumer acculturation. This was clear from a comparison of scores on a Cultural and Linguistic Difference (CALD) Index.
The index incorporated measures of birthplace, English proficiency, religion, food preferences, participation in entertainment and festivals, avenues of social interaction and engagement with neighbourhood communities. The gap between the China-born and Australia-born groups’ scores on the CALD Index was significant (see Figure 1). This suggests a strong cultural influence on the China-born group’s urban consumption behaviours is likely…
A comparison of the different components of the ecological footprints of China-born and Australia-born residents was also revealing. Housing footprints measuring the size and type of dwelling occupied by the China-born residents were 18% larger overall.
This may be due to the role housing plays in reflecting an attained status (mien-tzu, or “to save face”) within the host society. Consumption levels that outstrip those of Australia-born residents indicate the potential danger of housing consumption being used to indicate “successful” settlement in Australia.
Food footprints of the China-born were 16% larger than the Australia-born. This reflected higher consumption of meat and dairy products and lower consumption of home-grown vegetables. Carbon footprints of the China-born were 37% bigger, mainly as a result of more frequent overseas travel.
Thus, while Australia’s mass immigration program is unambiguously hampering its ability to meet the Paris Agreement emissions reduction targets, it could also be raising Australia’s per capita emissions (other things equal).
As an aside, the glutenous consumption and high carbon footprint of Chinese-born migrants comes despite them being the second lowest paid diaspora, earning considerably less than the Australian-born population, according to the ABS:
In any event, it is a bad result for Australia and the world.