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Don’t blame population for climate change

Mar 12th, 2012 | By | Category: Front Page Layout, Latest News

IMAGE: Science Media Center

IT ISN’T population we should be worried about, but our carbonheavy jet-setting lifestyles, says a University of Waikato population expert.

 The carbon footprint of New Zealanders is not really about the total population, says Professor Richard Bedford, who has published papers on climate change and population.

The NZ population is growing slowly, and natural increase rather than immigration has been the main driver of population growth, he says .

Statistics New Zealand data from December 2011 shows there were nearly 2500 fewer births, and just over 1600 more deaths than December of the previous year.

The fertility rate as of December, 2011, is 2.1 births per woman, meaning New Zealand’s natural growth rate is sitting just above the replacement rate.

In 2008, New Zealand carbon emissions were 7.8 metric tonnes per capita – down from a high of 8.7 in 2001 – according to UN Millennium Development data.

“[Carbon emissions] are more a function of our way of life,” Professor Bedford says.

“We consume far more resources than comparable populations in many other parts of the world, partly because of our location.”

Christina Bellis, Community Projects Manager for Wellington’s sustainability trust, says New Zealand has a very different carbon profile from other countries.

“In New Zealand, our carbon comes from the three ‘Cs’: cars, cows, and coal.”

New Zealand was 50th in the world for carbon emissions per capita in 2008, behind the US, the UK and Australia, but this figure doesn’t take into account the vast majority of the goods we consume, which are produced in the developing world.

Ms Bellis says New Zealanders can reduce their carbon footprint by walking and cycling more, as well as reducing their energy usage.

“Other actions around the house can make a big difference to energy consumption and comfort as well. The Wellington Curtain Bank provides free curtains for Community Service card holders.”

Consumers are advised to make the most of any energy they use, and businesses can do their bit as well.

“Just like households, it’s cheaper for businesses to operate sustainability,” she says. “Resource use and waste disposal are some of the easiest areas for a business to save costs.”

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is A Journalism Student at Whitireia in Wellington, New Zealand. His specialty areas are digital culture, politics and cyber-crime.
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