Population growth has ‘very high impact’ on biodiversity: SoE report

Sustainable Population Australia (SPA) has welcomed the recognition in the State of the Environment Report 2021 released today that human population growth is contributing to pressures on the environment and, in particular, has a “very high impact” on biodiversity.

SPA National President, Ms Jenny Goldie, says the report makes strong statements about population and biodiversity, such as: “Human activity and population growth are major drivers of many pressures on biodiversity. Impacts are associated with urban expansion, tourism, industrial expansion, pollution, fishing, hunting and infrastructure development. The impacts of population growth are significant and increasing in many areas.

“The report is candid about the impact of people on the environment,” says Ms. Goldie. “For example, the first graph in the Overview section reads, “Population, climate change, and industry each put pressure on our environment. When combined, the threat increases and our environment is damaged, sometimes destroyed.

“Climate change is a major pressure on the environment, but it is humans who are responsible for global warming, largely through the burning of fossil fuels and changing land use,” Ms Goldie added.

“In each of the 12 chapters, we read how human activity and growth are at the heart of the problem of environmental degradation. For example, the report states that “increasing urban density and urban sprawl put pressure on the natural environment and heritage”.

Ms Goldie also notes that the report warns that more people are at risk from extreme weather events. He says, “Populations are increasing in exposed regions as peri-urban population grows and development continues on floodplains and coasts.”

The report indicates that the greatest pressure on biodiversity is the clearing of native vegetation, the main drivers of which are the expansion of land dedicated mainly to agriculture and, to a lesser extent, forestry and infrastructure, including including urban development.

“The more people there are, the more land is cleared to grow food and fiber, as well as wood for shelter. Indeed, between 2000 and 2017, 7.7 million hectares of habitats for threatened terrestrial species were cleared or significantly degraded,” says Ms Goldie.

Ms Goldie said any attempt to deal with the dire state of Australia’s environment would be ineffective unless accompanied by policies to stabilize and then reduce the size of Australia’s population.

“Whether Prime Minister Albanese opts for greater population growth or halts such growth for environmental reasons, is the test of his true commitment to the protection of Australia’s natural environment,” says -she.

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