11 July 2017, The Conversation, Why a population of, say, 15 million makes sense for Australia. Population growth has profound impacts on Australian life, and sorting myths from facts can be difficult. This article is part of our series, Is Australia Full?, which aims to help inform a wide-ranging and often emotive debate. Neither of Australia’s two main political parties believes population is an issue worth discussion, and neither currently has a policy about it. The Greens think population is an issue, but can’t come at actually suggesting a target. Even those who acknowledge that numbers are relevant are often quick to say that it’s our consumption patterns, and not our population size, that really matter when we talk about environmental impact. But common sense, not to mention the laws of physics, says that size and scale matter, especially on a finite planet. In the meantime the nation has a bipartisan default population policy, which is one of rapid growth. This is in response to the demands of what is effectively a coalition of major corporate players and lobby groups. Solid neoliberals all, they see all growth as good, especially for their bottom line. They include the banks and financial sector, real estate developers, the housing industry, major retailers, the media and other major players for whom an endless increase in customers is possible and profitable. However, Australians stubbornly continue to have small families. The endless growth coalition responds by demanding the government import hundreds of thousands of new consumers annually, otherwise known as the migration intake. The growth coalition has no real interest in the cumulative social or environmental downside effects of this growth, nor the actual welfare of the immigrants. They fully expect to capture the profit of this growth program, while the disadvantages, such as traffic congestion, rising house prices and government revenue diverted for infrastructure catch-up, are all socialised – that is, the taxpayer pays. The leaders of this well-heeled group are well insulated personally from the downsides of growth that the rest of us deal with daily. A better measure of wellbeing than GDP The idea that population growth is essential to boost GDP, and that this is good for everyone, is ubiquitous and goes largely unchallenged. For example, according to Treasury’s 2010 Intergenerational Report: Economic growth will be supported by sound policies that support productivity, participation and population — the ‘3Ps’. If one defines “economic growth” in the first place by saying that’s what happens when you have more and more people consuming, then obviously more and more people produce growth. The fact that GDP, our main measure of growth, might be an utterly inadequate and inappropriate yardstick for our times remains a kooky idea to most economists, both in business and government. Genuine progress peaked 40 years ago Read More here
28 February 2017, Climate News Network, Inequalities fuel human impacts on climate. For the second time this year, a group of climate scientists has called for a new approach to climate change research to produce a better and more precise idea of how the world will change as global average temperatures rise. The call comes only weeks after a distinguished international team reminded researchers that some details of the planetary climate machine are still unresolved – such as what happens to all the carbon released by fossil fuel combustion, and how rainfall patterns will change in the decades to follow. Neither group is challenging the general climate models, which broadly predict that, unless action is taken, global average temperatures could rise by 4°C and global sea levels by a metre or so. What each wants is more detailed answers. The latest call comes from a team of US and Japanese scientists, who argue in their report in National Science Review journal that the human dimension is missing. What people do over the next decades will feed back into the mechanics of climate change. Missing dimensions The missing dimensions of the human impacts and contribution, they say, are threefold: the economic inequalities that stoke conflict and drive migration; the levels and patterns of consumption of resources that fuel these inequalities; and the numbers of people consuming these resources and demanding energy to improve their lives over the next two generations. For instance, the scientists say, human choices make a difference. The rate of atmospheric concentrations of the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide increased 700-fold, 1,000-fold and 300-fold respectively after the “green revolution” of the 1960s, compared with pre-industrial levels. Population growth was a factor. So was economic growth. And this corresponded to a doubling of human impacts every 17 years. “The doubling of this impact is shockingly rapid,” says the study leader, Safa Motesharri, a systems scientist at the University of Maryland’s National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Centre. Read More here
8 December 2016, Climate Home, Catch 22: when climate change *prevents* migration. Research shows those hit hardest by climate change can’t afford to move, supporting the call for more and better adaptation. Nobody wants to leave home. Even when it gets so hot that your crops fail, or the seasonal flood turns your house into a pond. But for some of the most vulnerable, the option isn’t even there. In Kenya, where about 60 to 80% of the population lives in slums, flooding is a regular menace that disrupts the life of the poor, often making the difference between a small income and an empty plate. Nairobi’s informal settlements cover only 6% of the total residential land area, yet 60% of the 3 million living in the Kenyan capital calls them home. For many slum residents, living in an insecure environment is not a choice and the prospect of climate change worsening the flooding problem fills them with dread. But escaping climate change is not that easy if you are poor. Western leaders, including US president Barack Obama and senior military figures, warn climate change could lead to “mass migration” and a “refugee crisis of unimaginable scale“. If climate change is not addressed urgently, they say, in the near future tens of millions of people will flee from rising sea levels, drought and even conflict exacerbated by harsher environmental conditions. The evidence available to date paints a more complex picture. A recent study examined the trends in six years of migration and weather data from Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria, Burkina Faso and Senegal. “Many people would assume that extreme heat would force households to send more migrants out,” said Clark Gray, lead author of the study. “That’s what’s happening in Uganda but not in other countries.” Read More here
5 October 2016. The Military and Climate Security Budgets Compared. Fifteen of the sixteen hottest years ever recorded have occurred during this new century, and the near-unanimous scientific consensus attributes the principal cause to human activity. The U.S. military’s latest National Security Strategy says that climate change is “an urgent and growing threat to our national security, contributing to increased natural disasters, refugee flows, and conflicts over basic resources like food and water.” What they don’t say is that the overall balance of U.S. security spending should be adjusted to fit that assessment. And we know less about how much we are spending on this urgent threat than we used to, since the federal government hasn’t produced a climate security budget since 2013. In this new report, Combat vs. Climate, the Institute for Policy Studies steps in to provide the most accurate climate change security budget currently available, drawing data from multiple agencies. And it looks at how these expenditures stack up within our overall security budget. Then, the report ties the military’s own assessment of its urgent threats to a budget that outlines a “whole of government” reapportionment that will put us on a path to averting climate catastrophe. This is our status quo: As global temperatures hit one record after another, the stalemate in Congress over funding to respond continues. Climate scientists warn that, as in Syria, unless the global greenhouse gas buildup is reversed, the U.S. could be at risk for conflicts over basic resources like food and water. Meanwhile, plans to spend $1 trillion to modernize our entire nuclear arsenal remain in place, and projected costs of the ineffective F-35 fighter jet program continue to climb past $1.4 trillion. Unless we get serious about moving the money, alarms from all over about the national security dangers of climate change will ring hollow. Access article here. Access report here.