28 April 2010

Population & Climate Change

Its an uncomfortable topic if you have children; its an uncomfortable topic if you do not have children...but its a topic we must discuss if we are to ensure a quality of life for those children in their lifetimes.

How coy we are about it - even in this article, there is pussyfooting around the issue:

'Is there a link between population and climate change?'

Is this a rhetorical question?!

Reposted in full from G Magazine, 21 April 2010

'One of the big issues now is the relationship between population and environmental damage.

In a recent address to the National Press Club in Canberra, reported here, Harvard University health professor Aaron Bernstein said climate change and population growth were the two biggest threats to civilisation.

With the global population soaring to nine billion, he said we are now seeing more diseases emerging, including respiratory ailments, that are the result of damaged ecological systems.

“Ecological barriers that once kept these infections at bay have been broken, opening the door to their passage of the human population,’’ he explained.

Melbourne University reproduction expert Roger Short argues that Australia’s population growth – apparently increasing by one person every two minutes - is out of control, increasing the rate of global warming.

A proposal published in the Medical Journal of Australia, and reported here, suggests governments should impose a carbon tax on babies. Barry Walters, an associate professor of obstetric medicine at the University of Western Australia, argues that parents having more than a defined number of kids should pay a carbon tax.

He argues that there should be a levy per child of at least $5,000 at birth (to purchase the land needed and plant trees) and an annual tax of $400-$800 thereafter for the life of the child (to pay for maintenance of the afforestation project). By the same token, contraceptives, intrauterine devices and sterilization procedures should come with carbon credits.

Indeed, Andrew Revkin from the New York Times has raised the possibility of baby avoidance carbon credits and suggests that condoms might be the ultimate green technology (read his blog here).

All this is important at the moment, with the debate raging around Australia about Treasury forecasts that our population will hit 36 million by 2050. Greens leader Bob Brown says we don’t have the infrastructure to deal with 21 million people, let alone something approaching 36.
It’s a point that Bernstein alludes to in his piece here.

“The population debate has heated up in Australia for many very good reasons, but one of those reasons, which in its own right has serious implications, is not getting much attention. While we - as a species of this planet - may squeeze through the current population-climate bottleneck, others may not," he writes.

"Treasury are now predicting Australia’s population will swell to 36 million by 2050 and globally, a massive human population is estimated to peak at nine billion people. Combined with climate change, this population increase will conspire to exert a tremendous strain upon the planet.

"Unless unchecked, the continued increase of our numbers on the planet is more than likely to result in serious consequences for human health and we risk placing short-term advantage over long-term gain at our own peril.”

But then, maybe we just need better planning. Australia, after all, is a big country, and maybe there has been too much focus on Melbourne and Sydney.

Farida Akhter, the Executive Director of UBINIG, a policy and action research organisation in Bangladesh, questions the link between population and climate change. She argues birth rates are coming down and in areas of the world where they are high, as in sub-Saharan Africa, emissions are actually low.

The other problem is how do we actually stop population growth? Is population the problem or is it more about our lifestyles and the way goods are produced?

Is there a link between population and climate change? And what do you think of the Federal Government looking at a 36 million population? Will that affect climate change?'

1 comment:

  1. It is disturbing that any intelligent person could fail to realise that, of course, there must be a direct connection between overpopulation and pollution, global stress and health hazards to the life forms on earth. Ask any farmer what inevitably happens when s/he overstocks their property, or even an individual paddock. The livestock lose weight, become stressed, internal parasites (worms) rapidly increase, their wool, meat or milk production reduces and then, if not rectified, they begin to scour, then die.

    That is very similar to what faces the human animal if we allow crazy politicians, or religious organisations to distort our perceptions or beliefs, just for their own financial or political benefit at a prohibitive cost to society.


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