Dear Minister Wong,
On 21 September 2009 you had the following exchange on the Breakfast Show on ABC Radio:
"Minister, Australia's population is projected to increase by 65% to the level of 30m people by 2050. During that same period, the government is committed to cutting our carbon emissions by 60%. Aren't those goals or those facts mutually exclusive? How are we going to massively cut carbon as our population continues to massively grow?"
"Well, absolutely not, because the key issue with reducing emissions is that we have to de-link our levels of carbon pollution from economic growth and population growth. We have to ... Whereas the last few hundred years emissions growth - that is, growth in our carbon pollution - has essentially tracked our population and economic growth, we have to break that link and that the whole world has to break that link and so does Australia. So the key issue here is breaking that link, not, not trying to reduce population."
Please tell me exactly what theory and model you are relying on for this proposed delinking of energy from population numbers in a context of economic growth. Please tell me why you believe it is inconceivable to simply allow Australia's population to return to natural levels of growth rather than interfere to engineer growth ever-upwards.
I am aware of economic beliefs that energy calory decrease trends since the late 1970s meant that there had been a delinking of energy use from productivity. This, however, has been shown to be mistaken. What had changed was the choice of and quality of fuels used for different tasks. Overall fuel use (and concommitant carbon gas output) has continued to increase with economic growth.
If it had failed to do so then the laws of thermodynamics would have been repealed, and that is impossible.
Perhaps you are relying on centrifugal separation based nuclear power, which admittedly uses less electrical energy than the old gaseous diffusion type?
Nonetheless, surely you cannot be unaware that, to replace Australia's current electrical consumption would require at least one thousand MWe nuclear power plant for each million Australians, each supplying 25PJ, plus an average of 4.8 new nuclear plants per year to supply annual growth in consumption. And that is without replacing the energy that oil and gas depletion will leave unsupplied, and it is without catering to the total electrical output of electricity producers, much of which will never reach any purposeful productive activity.
I await your response with real anxiety. Please reply as soon as possible, citing your theory, data and sources.
Sincerely, Sheila Newman Population, Environment and Energy Sociologist Editor of The Final Energy Crisis, 2nd Edition, Pluto Press, UK, 2008