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The Carbon Tax - If Only They'd Listened to a Gen Y Female and Dick Smith

With the revelation that the recently released carbon tax would exclude petrol, there was much protest and disappointment from climate change activists. But once again everyone missed the elephant in the room as far as meeting Australia’s emissions targets – the immigration rate.

With the revelation that the recently released carbon tax would exclude petrol, there was much protest and disappointment from climate change activists. But once again everyone missed the elephant in the room as far as meeting Australia’s emissions targets – the immigration rate. In the recently published online book Sleepwalking to Catastrophe first-time gen Y author Fiona Heinrichs argues in the same vein as Dick Smith’s Population Crisis. There are two sections in Fiona’s book which particularly highlight the elephant in the room: the hypocrisy of liberals in denying population impacts by focusing on consumption and modeling which verifies the ineffectiveness of the carbon tax without immigration reform. The former point is made in the following excerpt from Chapter 2:

environmental groups have had a mixed attitude towards population. Often they have a tendency to regard population growth as not a significant factor affecting environmental degradation, with resource use and consumption being more important. Global social justice issues typically come before local environmental sustainability.[156]

The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) was relatively inactive on the immigration and population issue; however, this was within the context that questioning such issues threatened one’s career. As Ian Lowe, president of the ACF and Australia 2020 Summit participant experienced first hand:

[Lowe] explicitly rejects the per capita consumption argument and has stated that reducing per capita consumption won’t solve environmental problems unless we also stabilise population.

Yet even with Lowe the media rarely reports his concern over population. When Mark O’Connor wrote to him in 2006 asking why this was so, he replied, at length, with many examples of how his frequent references to population were ignored or excised by journalists. He also described how he was sacked as a columnist from one paper for insisting on it. He found that the most biased media were the grossly pro-growthist Murdoch papers.[157]

Recently though, the ACF has done good work in filing a formal nomination of population growth as a ‘key threatening process’ to Australia’s biodiversity under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cth).[158] Interestingly enough, this action opens up the idea of suing the Federal government for the social and ecological damage done by its mass immigration policy, as has been attempted against governments in this on other jurisdictions in relation to climate change.[159]

Ecosocialists Ian Angus and Simon Butler, after making the standard argument that to be critical of immigration is to be a ‘racist’,[160] then argue that emissions from ‘carbon dirty’ industries in Canada, such as oil extraction from the Alberta Tar Sands are perhaps more worrying sources of greenhouse gas emissions than population growth.[161] Despite this claim, it does not follow that ‘the relationship between population growth and environmental destruction is shaped by how we use our resources, not by the number of people who use them’.[162] Population growth, along with affluence/resource use and technology, determine the environmental impact.[163] As Sara Parkin, former politician for the Green Party of England and Wales notes in the Foreword to the Forum for the Future publication, Growing Pains: Population and Sustainability in the UK:

As advisors to Barack Obama have pointed out, the future for everyone will be dominated by scarcity – of resources, of land, of airspace (for CO2 emissions) … The more people there are the harder that will be. The maths of sustainability is simple – the equation requires fewer people, consuming less – yet we find it difficult to talk about either.[164]

A Joint Statement by Fifty-Eight of the World’s Scientific Academics, Population Summit of the World’s Scientific Academies said:

‘The magnitude of the threat to the ecosystem is linked to human population size and resource use per person.’[165] Also: ‘There are warnings that the earth is finite and that natural systems are being pushed even closer to their limits.’[166]

The Australian Academy of Science, Population 2040: Australia’s Choice agreed and concluded that Australia should aim for a stable population of no more than 23 million by 2040.[167]

Penny Wong, Climate Change Minister in the government of Kevin Rudd and now Finance Minister, was asked: ‘Australia’s population is projected to increase by 65% … by 2050. During the same period, the government is committed to cutting our carbon emissions by 60%. Aren’t those goals or facts mutually exclusive?’

Wong said:

‘Absolutely not…Whereas the last few hundred years…growth in our carbon pollution has essentially tracked our population and economic growth … The key issue here is breaking that link, not trying to reduce population.’[168]

Wong’s style of thinking is replicated in South Australia; the driest state in the driest continent on Earth by fellow South Australian Labor Party politician Premier Mike Rann, who on the one hand tries to be seen as doing something about climate change, while on the other seeks to double South Australia’s population by 2050, with no limit in sight.[169] Professor Emeritus, Albert Bartlett, Physics, University of Colorado at Bounder, has shown the mathematical absurdity of claims such as Wong’s:

The average growth rate needed to increase Australia’s population 65% by the year 2050 is only 1.252 percent per year. The average annual reduction of emissions needed to reduce emissions 60% by 2050 is 2.291 percent per year. Add these two rates (1.252 + 2.291) and you will find that to accommodate the projection population growth AND to reduce overall annual emissions by 60% would require an annual rate of decrease of per capita emissions of polluting greenhouse gases of 3.543 percent per year over the next forty years. The per capita annual emissions would have to be cut in half every 19.6 years! What is the base for Minister Wong’s belief that this enormous reduction can be achieved, year after year for forty years? What progress towards this goal has Australia made during Ms. Wong’s leadership in her present position of Climate Change Minister? Does Minister Wong really believe this can be done? Or is she basing her policy recommendations on Walt Disney’s First Law:

‘Wishing will make it so.’

Let’s look a little farther. The present rate of growth Australia’s population is quoted as being 1.8 percent per year which is significantly higher than the 1.252 percent per year assumed above. If this current higher rate continues, Australia’s population will double by 2050 and would reach a density of one person per square metre over the whole continent in just over 700 years! Surely the Minister will admit that population growth in Australia will stop itself through starvation, pollution, warfare and the lack of resources long before the population density reaches one person per square metre. The critical question for the Minister then is,

‘Should Australia encourage continued population growth or should the people of Australia act to stop the growth before Nature stops it?’

If the Minister feels that Australians should act to stop population growth before Nature stops the growth, then why not stop it now while there are still some resources and some open spaces? It would be very helpful for the people of Australia if Climate Change Minister Wong would give these facts and options some serious consideration and then report the results of her considerations promptly to the people of Australia.[170]

However, with the recent portfolio shuffle following Julia Gillard’s election to government, such revelations now lie with the new Climate Change and Energy Efficiency Minister Greg Combet.[171] As to whether or not Minister Combet will come any closer to answering such pressing questions, only time will tell.

In the following excerpt from Chapter 4, Fiona makes the second notable point that a carbon tax implemented without stabilising population cannot reduce total emissions:

Prime Minister Gillard was told by her own Department, in a confidential briefing given in September 2010 that the quality of life in Australian big cities, measured by declining indexes of livability, is falling and could get worse.[315] A National Institute of Labour Studies report concluded that a high level of net overseas migration would have substantial adverse impacts on the quality of Australia’s natural and built environments.[316] Unless high levels of migration are cut, Sydney and Melbourne will require over 430,000 ha of new housing land and the loss in agricultural land will result in the need for imported key food stuffs, including dairy, lamb and vegetables, by 2050. Even if immigration ceased altogether, Australian capital cities will still grow by around 50 per cent within two decades, with a cost to each resident for congestion of $ 1,000 per year. For the present immigration level, capital cities will grow by 1.5 times within 50 years. At a net overseas migration level of 260,000 per annum, demand for oil will double by 2050 and greenhouse gas emissions from fuel combustion will increase by 200 percent from present levels.[317] Australian Treasury modeling accepts that greenhouse gas emissions grow, other things being equal, when population numbers grow. Bob Birrell and Ernest Healy did a disaggregation of Treasury forecasts to obtain an estimation of the contribution of population to greenhouse gas production and concluded that ‘83 percent of the forecast increase in greenhouse emissions to 2020 will be attributable to population growth’.[318] Further, Jorgenson and Clark examined data from 1960 to 2005 and found a large and positive association between national-level population growth and anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions for both developed and developing countries, an association which has been so for at least the past 50 years.[319] So the pivotal question is:

What is the point of introducing an emissions trading scheme or a carbon tax or any such policy on already struggling Australian working families, when Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions will continue to surge into the future anyway under the federal government’s unreformed surging immigration rate?

Any reduction in emissions made through a cap or tax would be cancelled out by the subsequent increase in emissions of aggravated population expansion.[320] Targets for reducing emissions cannot be reached without targets for reducing population growth. With population growth expected to contribute to 83 percent of increases in Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions to 2020, surely any passionate climate change activist would tackle this environmental problem through immigration reform first? The much publicised battle[321] everyday Australian working families currently face struggling to pay their power bills, reduced quality of life from restricted water and power usage and genuine environmental conservation efforts are made a mockery of when the federal government sabotages these efforts through its unsustainable immigration policy. Mark O’Connor and William Lines make the same observation in Overloading Australia: How Governments and Media Dither and Deny on Population and subsequently suggest Australians should waste water as:

our analysis shows that until we get restraint in population there is no point in citizens saving water. If they do, this will not mean that their neighbours get more water for their gardens, or that tougher restrictions will be postponed. Rather, it means that politicians will be able to continue their irresponsible dream of putting over a million extra people in each of our three biggest cities over the next 25 years (and proportionately even more into Perth). So long as we have such misguided leaders, any water-restraint shown by the individual citizen will only allow our politicians to persist longer in their folly, and will lead – quite soon – to even worse shortages of water, plus many other environmental disasters.[322]

Certainly, the currently planned carbon tax should at the very least be postponed until after the government implements immigration reform first, and then reassessed on its capacity to reduce emissions.

Certainly indeed. Interestingly, Fiona’s book was published in May, so politicians, journalists, climate change activists and various public figures had plenty of time to digest her ideas before the current carbon tax was released. If only they’d listened to a gen Y female and Dick Smith for that matter.

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Comments

Very true. And didn't they also miss out big-time by excluding the livestock industry which produces 51% of GHG?

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