Increasing population growth will change the lifestyle currently enjoyed by Australians as state capital cities are likely to grow by at least 50% if the 'Big Australian' target of 35.9 million people by 2050 is reached, it is claimed.
Such a large population growth will not put serious pressure on the country's non renewable resources or capacity to feed the nation but it will make the task of reducing green house emissions very difficult, according to an academic report.
At a time when Australia needs more skilled workers from abroad the report by Bob Birrell, founding Director of the Centre for Population and Urban Research and Reader in Sociology at Monash University, suggests that most people think that congestion, urban redevelopment and competition for amenities will be increased by population growth.
Birrell points out that at first glance Australia's population outlook may seem to be irrelevant to the reduction of green house emissions globally. 'Australia contributed only about 1.5% of the world's greenhouse gases in 2005, and in any case most of Australia's population growth into the future will derive from immigration. This could be thought of as a transfer in the sense that it is the total global load of emissions that matters not where the emissions occur, the report says.
'Nevertheless, it will matter because Australia is such a major polluter in per capita terms. Australia's estimated per capita emissions of greenhouse gasses in 2005 were 28.9 tonnes, well above the level in the United States of 23.9 tonnes, double that of the European Union of 10.7 tonnes per head and of the order of 10 times the level in the countries of Asia, where most of our migrants come from,' it explained.
'As a consequence, Australia can hardly evade taking action to cut emissions, and indeed that has been the view of the Australian Labour Government since ratifying the Kyoto Convention. The Labour Party's longstanding commitment to reduce Australia's emissions to 60% below year 2000 levels by 2050 is another indicator of this commitment,' it adds.
The report examines how lifestyles will change with population growth and looks at how policies affect that. The key question is addressed is whether the life style aspirations of Australians are compatible with a sustainable natural environment should Australia's population reach the 35.9 million figure projected under the Big Australia scenario.
'The material reviewed in this report suggests that the answer is no. An extra 14 million Australian residents living, like the other 22 million, at near double the current real per capita income level by 2050 will put an immense strain on Australia's environment. In the case of greenhouse emissions it will require very tough mitigation measures just to keep emission levels at their current level, let alone achieve the 60% reduction on year 2000 level target of the Labour Government,' the report says.
'It is equally unlikely that the traditional Australian house and garden lifestyle can be maintained. The environment stresses and costs of accommodating a land extensive settlement pattern for capital cities likely to grow by at least 50% by 2050 will ensure that political leaders and planners continue to embrace urban consolidation policies. In these circumstances the vexations that triggered the lifestyle debate during the 2010 election will continue to simmer. Dealing with these issues will remain a major political issue,' it concludes.