Academics, climate warriors focus on wrong environmental threat


Last week, the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (AATSE) and the Climate Council urged the federal government to accelerate Australia’s path to ‘net zero’ emissions.

Australia is currently committed to reducing its carbon emission by 43% below 2005 levels by 2030, as part of a transition to “net zero” emissions by 2050.

However, the AATSE, which represents over 900 senior engineers and scientists, has urged the government to set a goal of reaching net zero emissions by 2035 – i.e. 15 years earlier than currently targeted.

For its part, the Climate Council wants a 75% reduction in emissions by 2030 compared to 2005 levels.


David Karoly, Professor emeritus at The University of Melbourne, has joined the crusade, penning an article in The Conversation calling on Australia to redouble its efforts toward ‘net zero’:

“We need to fix Australia’s national environment law, making sure it contains an explicit objective to prevent actions that accelerate climate change”.

“We need a national environment law that genuinely protects our environment by stopping highly polluting projects and enabling ones that can help us rapidly switch to a clean economy instead”.

“Every fraction of a degree of avoided warming matters for preserving our environment”.

“Every decision made under our national environment law can either help or hinder the urgent task to drive down greenhouse gas emissions”.

One can only wonder why these academics and scientists are so myopically focused on “net zero” and only see climate change as the major threat to Australia’s environment?

Why do they continually ignore the far bigger threat – the nation’s rapacious population growth – which Australia has direct control over and has been continually been highlighted in the federal government’s own State of the Environment (SoE) reports?

SoE Report

The most recent 2021 SoE Report stated that “most population-driven pressures are considered to be high or very high impact, and increasing… Population growth contributes to all the pressures described in this report”.

So why won’t these experts, who purport to care about Australia’s natural environment, call out Australia’s ultra aggressive immigration policy, which has the nation’s population growing at a record pace?


How can Australia realistically reach “net zero” emissions or safeguard the environment when its population is officially projected to grow by 14 million people, or by more than half, in just 40 years via never-ending mass immigration?

It is estimated that building construction, operation, and maintenance account for around one-quarter of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions.


The projected 14 million increase in Australia’s population would require the construction of at least 5.5 million extra dwelling (when accounting for demolitions), as well as huge volumes of infrastructure investment.

This building will increase Australia’s carbon emissions, as would the additional 14 million energy users and consumers.

To accommodate the 14 million extra people, Australia would also need to build multiple energy-intensive water desalination plants, which would further deplete the nation’s carbon budget.


Then there’s the devastating broader environmental impacts from land clearing, resource use and waste from having a much larger population.

Total environmental impact equals the population multiplied by the number of consumption units. It isn’t difficult to understand.

Yet, the “net zero” warriors continually speak with a forked tongue when they say Australia must meet “net zero” while also substantially increasing the number of energy and resource users.


Let’s also get real for a moment. Australia has very little control over the world’s carbon emissions. We could turn “net zero” tomorrow and it would barely make a dent on global emissions, especially given more Australian fossil fuel energy would be exported to China:

Annual CO2 emissions

However, we do directly control the nation’s population growth via the migrant intake.


So why not reduce the intake back to historical levels of around 100,000 a year to safeguard the environment, housing affordability, infrastructure provision, the water supply, and overall living standards?

Why won’t scientists and environmental warriors talk about the giant immigration elephant trampling Australia’s environment?

Or is it easier to just point the finger at the “net zero” boogieman and pretend to care?

About the author
Leith van Onselen is Chief Economist at the MB Fund and MB Super. He is also a co-founder of MacroBusiness. Leith has previously worked at the Australian Treasury, Victorian Treasury and Goldman Sachs.