Will our aging population save us from climate change?

Harry Dent visited our Australian shores recently and was espousing that our aging population in Australia would cause a housing bubble to happen in the next 1-2 years. The premise being that when the baby boomers come to sell off their houses in retirement there aren’t enough Gen Xers or Millennials to buy them – low demand, high supply therefore price drop.

Which got me thinking, what impact does our aging population have on climate change or more precisely our emissions? Here is the answer.

First of all the aging population.
Using Australian Bureau of Statistic (ABS) data we do indeed have a forecast aging population. By 2061 we will have shifted from 20% over 65 to 30% of the population over 65. We will have a declining 35% from 40% of the population aged under 30.

Aus Demos

So, yes we have an aging population but what has that got to do with climate change?

Consumption Demographics
Our material consumption has a huge connection to our emissions. Everything we consume uses materials and energy to make it, run it and dispose of it. So the more stuff we buy the more emissions we create. The good old IPat equation tells us that – Impact = Population x Affluence x Technology.

Harry Dent uses spending per household with the age of the wage earner to demonstrate shifting spending patterns with shifting age ranges. But in doing the research for this article I came across Macro Business who highlighted that this maybe isn’t the right proxy for demographic spending and they combined Harry’s research with ABS data to create a graph of spending per person for each age range. This is reproduced below.

Aust-Per-Person-Expenditure-by-Age-2009-10

So, we have two spikes in age range spending the first when we move out of home and the second when we make our own family home at age 45. This spending graph can be used as a proxy for carbon emissions per person. We know the average Australian produces 19tonnes per year so we can create a demographic emission proxy per person.

Carbon Emission Demographics Australia

When we combine these two graphs we end up with a average carbon emissions per age range for Australia for 2012 and for 2061.

Ave Emissions

As you can see in 2012 the greatest producers of carbon emissions where indeed the 55-64 age range but the lowest is the 65+ age range, so if we have an aging population then our carbon emissions should go down.

Yep, if we did nothing about our emissions we would get a 20% reduction in carbon emissions purely from our changing demographics. So our aging population is changing our emissions per person but is it enough to save us from climate change?

No, unfortunately.

Remember the IPat equation where P is population – yep, you’ve guessed it P or population is the over riding factor.

aus emissions

When we look at total carbon emissions per age range. The culprits shift from the 25-34 year olds in 2012 to the 55-64 year olds in 2061 and guess who they are – the current 0-15 year olds! So will they be consuming in the same way our current demographic bands do now?

Knowing this information what should we do?

That’s for Thursdays article – stay tuned.

2 Comments on “Will our aging population save us from climate change?

  1. Pingback: How can we address the demographics of climate change? « SIMON WILD

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