Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Bad luck Penny Wong! Population does cause greenhouse emissions.

The following recent scholarly publication, if one can get past its dense academic jargon, seems an important counter to the Monbiot Fallacy Monbiot Fallacy which pretends that population growth is not an important cause of greenhouse emissions (or perhaps of other environmental harms).

It also gives the lie to Penny Wong's nonsense about "de-linking" Australia's population growth from the size of its greenhouse emissions.

A recent posting by Tim Murray adds the following examples, in clearer English:

1.From 1990, the Kyoto base-line year, until 2006, Australia’s population grew by 30% while its GHG emissions grew by 30%.

2.From 1970 to 2004, America’s population grew 43% while its GHG emissions grew by 43%

Yet as Murray remarks, some greenies will never grasp that it is not just our personal footprint that counts, but the total of our footprints.

Mark O'Connor

Assessing the temporal stability of the population/environment relationship in comparative perspective:
a cross-national panel study of carbon dioxide emissions, 1960–2005
Andrew K. Jorgenson • Brett Clark
Published online: 25 June 2010

Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Abstract: This study examines the temporal stability of the population/environment

relationship. We analyze panel data from 1960 to 2005 to determine whether

the national-level association between population and carbon dioxide emissions has

remained stable, declined, or intensified in recent decades. Results indicate that

population size has a large and stable positive association with anthropogenic

carbon dioxide emissions. The findings of temporal stability generally hold for both

developed countries and less-developed countries. The authors conclude that population,

in tandem with other social drivers, remains an important consideration for

research that addresses the human dimensions of global environmental change.

Taken as a whole, the analyses suggest that the effect of total population on total

carbon dioxide emissions is large and remained very stable from 1960 to 2005, and

this applies to less-developed countries and developed countries.8 Further, the

relationship between population and emissions is not spurious due to nonstationarity

dynamics that plague pockets of past research in the environmental

social sciences (see Wagner 2008). These findings support the argument put forward

by various scholars that population remains an important driver of environmental

degradation in macro-comparative contexts (e.g., Harte 2007; Hunter 2001; Shi



In this research brief, we found that the relationship between population size and

total carbon dioxide emissions has remained very stable through time, and this holds

for developed countries and less-developed countries. While we find no evidence of

decoupling or intensification of this population/environment relationship, we

emphasize that population size continues to have a large effect on the scale of

anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions and thus climate change. Simply,

population size is a major contributor to total carbon dioxide emissions, and

according to our results it has been consistently so for close to 50 years. Drawing

from the results of this research and with the availability of adequate panel data, in

follow-up cross-national analyses we plan to assess the temporal stability of

population’s effect on a variety of other scale-level environmental outcomes,

including anthropogenic methane emissions and other air pollutants as well as the

ecological footprints of nations.

It is well documented that a myriad of human activities­such as the burning of

fossil fuels, economic growth, international trade, deforestation, the ability of the

oceans and forests to absorb carbon, and technological efficiency­influence the

accumulation of carbon dioxide gas in the atmosphere (e.g., IPCC 2007; Jorgenson

and Kick 2006; Roberts and Parks 2007; Rosa et al. 2009). The environmental

consequences of population growth are complex (e.g., Entwisle and Stern 2005;

Entwisle et al. 2008; Lie et al. 1999), given the vast differences in conditions

throughout the world. Nonetheless, the temporal stability of the relationship

examined in this study illustrates that population should continue to be considered in

tandem with other social drivers when investigating the human dimensions of global

environmental change and that relevant policies that address the persistent role of

population along with other factors are far from misguided.

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