Population not to blame for global warming

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Climate change and drought are big issues for most Australians. Many are concerned about global warming and are looking for solutions. Unfortunately, instead of pinning the blame on big business, some people are blaming environmental problems on immigration and population increase.

In an article recently released by the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) titled Population boom will bust environment and quality of life, it is argued that increases in carbon emissions are linked to population growth.

According to the ACF’s Charles Berger “The higher our population goes, the harder it will be for us to reduce greenhouse pollution, restore our rivers to health and ensure a good quality of life for all Australians. With urban infrastructure already groaning under the pressure of growth in our cities, we need a more sensible long-term strategy.” He continues, stating that “An increase in population to 35 million by 2050 would mean 325 million tonnes of additional pollution, costing us at least $10 billion a year in extra carbon pollution costs alone.”

This position implies that instead of changing production methods and energy generation techniques, we should instead accept that per capita emissions can never be drastically reduced.

The reality is that even if Australia’s population stayed at its current level for the next 20 years, unless steps were taken to make society as a whole more sustainable by dramatically increasing the use of renewable energy, reducing the use of petrol by increasing public transport and increasing the efficiency of production, carbon emissions would remain at today’s unacceptably high levels.

While it cannot be denied that a higher population means increased consumption, it is not population growth that has locked the world economy into destructive practices and a reliance on fossil fuels. Organisations such as the ACF should focus on placing the blame on those who deserve it, big business and the governments who pander to them.

Kevin Rudd, who’s pre election promises included reducing Australia’s Co2 emissions by 20% by 2020 has used the recent financial crisis as an excuse for cutting this already inadequate goal down to 5% by 2020. He has also continued the long standing tradition of subsidising the coal industry whilst giving the renewable energy industry only a small portion of what it needs to get off the ground. The sort of drastic cut backs in emissions that scientists say are required to prevent catastrophic climate change can only be achieved by a large scale switch to non polluting renewable energy.

From its early days capitalism has functioned by turning natural resources into commodities which are sold for profit. It is the drive for profit, not human need, that determines the way in which commodities are produced. The solution to addressing climate change is not to blame the victims but to take the profit motive out of the equation. In this way will we be able to move towards a sustainable economy that can provide for all.