Until last week, I honestly hadn’t thought much about the link between an increasing population and climate change. But after watching Dick Smith’s Population Puzzle and the following Q&A Population Debate Special I began considering what the true correlation may be. The management of Australia’s increasing population has recently entered the political arena, being hotly debated alongside climate change policy. But how do these two issues exactly relate? Firstly, an increased population will directly result in increased national emissions. This is an unavoidable fact – there will be more people on the roads increasing car based pollution and more people requiring the manufacture of goods resulting in higher industrial emissions (not to mention the greater emissions from agriculture, household electricity use and land cleared to house the burgeoning population). This increase in emissions is obviously negative in terms of reducing/minimising our impacts on climate change.
Secondly, an increased population will put more pressure on our food and water resources, which from all accounts, are projected to be negatively affected by climate change in Australia. Increasing extreme weather events, including drought will have an obvious effect on drinking supplies but will also have flow on effects to agriculture.
Even with the known negative associations between a large population and Australia’s sustainability the idea of enforcing a population is policy is highly contentious. This was highlight by Jeffrey Candiloro on the Q&A Population Debate Special when he asked the panel: The global population is forecast to peak around 2075 at about 9.5 billion people before it starts to fall. That’s an increase of around 40% on current levels. How can we, morally and ethically, say to the rest of the world “You deal with the population pressures, the environmental problems, the sheer cost of 40% more people – we’re full”?