Human Cost of Inaction Incalculable

March 21, 2012 • Daily Email Recap

The following article was penned by the economics editor of the Sydney Morning Herald, Ross Gittins.  Population size and growth are major political issues in Australia. In fact, a 2011 survey of nearly 16,000 people revealed that 64% of the Sydney community would not like an increased population, 9% would like it and 27% did not know or did not care. (Performance Benchmarking of Australian Business Regulation:Planning, Zoning and Development Assessments, Productivity Commission Research Report Volume 1, p.28, April 2011; Source. Available from [accessed 6 March 2012]).

If you click on this link you can also watch a 2-minute commentary from Gittins regarding his opinion piece:

Human cost of inaction incalculable

March 21, 2012


Do you ever wonder how the environment – the global ecosystem – will cope with the continuing growth in the world population plus the rapid economic development of China, India and various other ”emerging economies”? I do. And it’s not a comforting thought.

But now that reputable and highly orthodox outfit the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has attempted to think it through systematically. In its report Environmental Outlook to 2050, it projects existing socio-economic trends for 40 years, assuming no new policies to counter environmental problems.

It’s not possible to know what the future holds, of course, and such modelling – economic or scientific – is a highly imperfect way of making predictions. Even so, some idea is better than no idea. It’s possible the organisation’s projections are unduly pessimistic, but it’s just as likely they understate the problem because they don’t adequately capture the way various problems could interact and compound.

Then there’s the problem of ”tipping points”. We know natural systems have tipping points, beyond which damaging change becomes irreversible. There are likely to be tipping points in climate change, species loss, groundwater depletion and land degradation.

”However, these thresholds are in many cases not yet fully understood, nor are the environmental, social and economic consequences of crossing them,” the report admits. In which case, they’re not allowed for in the projections.

Over the past four decades, human endeavour has unleashed unprecedented economic growth in the pursuit of higher living standards. While the world’s population has increased by more than 3 billion people since 1970, the size of the world economy has more than tripled.

To read the full article, please click here:

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