Activists: Birth control can fight global warming

Jason Howerton Contributor
Font Size:

During a discussion series on Monday at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C., speaker and activist Kavita Ramdas argued that contraceptives should be part of a strategy to save the planet, calling lower birth rates a “common sense” part of a climate-change reduction strategy.

At the event, titled “Women’s Health: Key to Climate Adaptation Strategies,” Ramdas pointed to studies conducted by health consultants at the for-profit Futures Group, the government-funded National Center for Atmospheric Research and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, in Austria, to connect contraception with climate change.

Ramdas told The Daily Caller that the research shows “empowering women to time their pregnancies” and avoid unwanted births would reduce carbon emissions between 8 to 15 percent globally.

“It is common sense that when women are able to plan their pregnancies, populations grow more slowly and as a result so do greenhouse gas emissions,” she explained. “Providing access to contraception and preventative health should be one of the many effective strategies used to fight climate change.”

Ramdas is also executive director of the Program on Social Entrepreneurship at Stanford University.

Global warming activists argue increasing greenhouse gas emissions, partly resulting from unsustainable population growth, is resulting in “environmental devastation” such as frequent severe weather events and rising sea levels.

The United States and other countries with high levels of emissions, Ramdas told TheDC, have the potential to make the biggest impact by making contraception more accessible. She said every child in America absorbs, on average, 40 percent more of the earth’s resources than children in other countries.

In her address Monday, Ramdas said there was a growing global consensus about putting “population development and women’s rights” in the same argument.

Ramdas later told TheDC, however, that her contraception advocacy isn’t about population control, but rather supporting a woman’s right to decide when to get pregnant. The two causes, she insisted, just happened to complement one another.

“It is part of the same argument started by Margaret Sanger — that you have the right to do what you want with your own body,” Ramdas said.

Sanger founded Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider. She also popularized the term “birth control” and spoke about limiting the births of disabled persons and other “unfit,” groups.

Planned Parenthood did not return phone calls seeking comment.

Ramdas isn’t the first activist to suggest a connection between global warming and birth rates.

At a January “Climate Change, Population and Sustainability” event organized by Aspen Global Health and Development, International Planned Parenthood Federation regional director Carmen Barroso said limiting population growth may reduce carbon emissions significantly.

“It’s about the facts,” said Barroso. “We’ve always known that there are millions of women — especially the young women — who want to delay or avoid their next pregnancy but do not have access to family planning information and services.”

Recent research shows that meeting this need, and thereby slowing population growth, could reduce carbon emissions by 16 to 29 percent of the emission reductions necessary to avoid dangerous climate change.”

Myron Ebell, director of the Center for Energy and Environment, said the “population issue” has been underneath the surface of the global warming debate since it began. Activists’ solution to that particular problem, he explained, has always been to decrease the human population somehow.

“It is the case that less people means less carbon emissions,” Ebell told TheDC. “But we fundamentally disagree with the effect that it is having on the planet. We believe that people are an asset, not a burden, to the world.”

Ebell said a lot of research “vastly overstates” the threat of climate change, which is why his organization relies on nonpartisan scientists and researchers to draw its conclusions.

“We are often called [global warming] ‘deniers’ but we just don’t see the evidence that climate change at this point is anything other than a potential environmental challenge,” he told TheDC.

“As a crisis, it has been terribly oversold.”

The global warming movement, Ebell explained, has been poisoned by partisan politics and the huge sums of grant money that are available for climate change research.

It is unclear whether the Obama administration, already engaged in the “green” movement, will use Ramda’s theory to promote its health care plan’s controversial contraception mandate.

That provision may soon require faith-based employers to provide healthcare that includes access to contraceptives and abortion-inducing medications, even if providing those benefits goes against their religious teachings.

Planned Parenthood is applauding the president’s proposed 2013 budget, which calls for $296.8 million in funding for the Title X Family Planning Program, $104.8 million for the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program and $530 million for USAID family planning and reproductive health programs.

The United Nations Population Fund would also receive $39 million, a $4 million increase over 2011 funding. It supports family planning, population development and climate change mitigation work, among other causes.

publication by the U.N. agency called “Population Dynamics and Climate Change” argues that “the lack of consideration of population dynamics hampers the development of stronger, more effective solutions to the challenges climate change poses.”

Follow Jason on Twitter