# Will the last 40 years be the same as the next 40 years?

I recently celebrated my Birthday and if I am halfway through my life then the next 40 years will put me slap bang in the year 2050!

The dreaded 2050, the year with so many books written about it, the year of my 3 questions about 2050 series, the year we need to have reduced our carbon emissions by 80% if we are to stay below 4 degrees of warming.

Which got me thinking, what has changed in the last 40 years and does it give hope to the next 40 years?

1970 | 2010 | |

The population of Australia | 12,000,000 | 21,000,000 |

75% Increase | ||

Australia’s Carbon Emissions | 150,000 ktonnes CO2 | 400,000 ktonnes CO2 |

160% Increase | ||

Australia’s Carbon Emissions Per Capita | 11.8 Tonnes per Capita | 18.8 Tonnes per Capita |

60% Increase | ||

Australian Gross Domestic Product (GDP) | $46 Billion | $1,272 Billion |

260% Increase | ||

Australian Gross Domestic Product per Capita (GDP/Capita) | $3,833 | $60,570 |

1500% Increase | ||

Carbon Emissions per GDP | 3.3 kg CO2/ $ GDP | 0.3 kg CO2/ $ GDP |

90% Reduction |

Well that’s not a pretty picture – 160% increase in carbon emissions, 60% increase in emissions per capita! But one bit of good news is that our emissions per $ GDP have reduced by 90%, some of that maybe inflation driven but its a significant reduction non the less.

So if that was the last 40 years what does the next 40 hold? And can we reach 80% reduction in total carbon emissions by 2050?

Well first up there are going to be a lot more of us.

1970 | 2010 | 2050 | |

The population of Australia | 12,000,000 | 21,000,000 | ABS estimates between 31-43 million |

75% Increase | 65% Increase |

Which means that to meet our target of 80% reduction of total carbon emissions by 2050 we will need to reduce our emissions per person by 88% due to our increasing population.

1970 | 2010 | 2050 | |

The population of Australia | 12,000,000 | 21,000,000 | ABS estimates between 31-43 million |

75% Increase | 65% Increase | ||

Australia’s Carbon Emissions | 150,000 ktonnes CO2 | 400,000 ktonnes CO2 | Needs to be 80,000 ktonnes CO2 |

160% Increase | 80% Reduction | ||

Australia’s Carbon Emissions Per Capita | 11.8 Tonnes per Capita | 18.8 Tonnes per Capita | 2.3 Tonnes per Capita (compound effect of inc. pop.) |

60% Increase | 88% Reduction |

Now if you remember the impact equation I=PAT then its not just the people (P) and our carbon efficiency (T) it is also how much we consume (A is for Affluence). So using GDP as a measure of affluence then we need to consider what our GDP is doing as well.

1970 | 2010 | 2050 | |

The population of Australia | 12,000,000 | 21,000,000 | ABS estimates between 31-43 million |

75% Increase | 65% Increase | ||

Australia’s Carbon Emissions | 150,000 ktonnes CO2 | 400,000 ktonnes CO2 | Needs to be 80,000 ktonnes CO2 |

160% Increase | 80% Reduction | ||

Australia’s Carbon Emissions Per Capita | 11.8 Tonnes per Capita | 18.8 Tonnes per Capita | 2.3 Tonnes per Capita (compound effect of inc. pop.) |

60% Increase | 80% Reduction | ||

Australian Gross Domestic Product (GDP) | $46 Billion | $1,272 Billion | $3,447 Billion |

260% Increase | 170% Increase | ||

Australian Gross Domestic Product per Capita (GDP/Capita) | $3,833 | $60,570 | $98,485 |

1500% Increase | 60% Increase | ||

Carbon Emissions per GDP | 3.3 kg CO2/ $ GDP | 0.3 kg CO2/ $ GDP | 0.000002 kg CO2/ $ GDP |

90% Reduction | 99.9993% Reduction |

And when we do consider our GDP per capita which is expected to rise to $98k per person per year then our emissions per GDP then we need to achieve a 99.9993% reduction in carbon emission per $ GDP.

Yep, when we increase the number of people and the amount of spend per person it compounds the percentage reduction needed to meet a fixed emissions benchmark. So to achieve an 80% reduction from year 2000 carbon emissions, GDP and population level we need to achieve a 99.9993% reduction in carbon emissions for the predicted year 2050 population and GDP levels. That seems hard.

But look at how much we reduced our carbon emissions per $ GDP in the last 40 years – 90%. So if we managed 90% in the last 40 years achieving 99.9993% in the next 40 years doesn’t seem that hard, I hope.

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