A study authored in part by a University of British Columbia (UBC) student is recommending that couples have fewer children if they want to fight climate change.
The report was written by UBC PhD student Seth Wynes and professor Kimberly Nicholas from Sweden’s Lund University and published Tuesday in Environemental Research Letters. It suggests that merely asking people to refrain from using plastic bags at the grocery store creates “the impression that the issue of climate change is trivial in nature” and that real results will only be achieved through real sacrifice.
What kind of sacrifice? In addition having fewer children, climate change advocates can get really serious by getting rid of their vehicles, going vegetarian, or taking one less transatlantic flight per year. The report dutifully records how much CO2 you’re saving in each instance. While losing the family car will result in 2.4 tonnes less of CO2 in the atmosphere, the effect of one less child is a “savings” of 58.6 tones of CO2.
The report suggests these hard choices aren’t being sold to high school students, who are only told that recycling, hanging out the laundry and using low-energy light bulbs are really worthwhile contributions.
The authors are particularly annoyed over one textbook suggesting that “making a difference doesn’t have to be difficult” and then told students that switching to reusable grocery bags can save five kg of CO2 emissions a year.
“This is less than one per cent as effective as a year without eating meat,” according to the study. “Examples like this create the impression that the issue of climate change itself is trivial in nature.”
The authors also worry that governments and corporations alone won’t be able to meet the goals of the Paris climate accord. So that means individuals are going to have to their part in even larger ways.
Wynes certainly seems to be pulling his own weight. He doesn’t have any children, does not drive a vehicle and refuses to fly — opting instead to take the train for long distance trips.
“I eat mostly a vegetarian diet,” he adds. However, “If my buddy’s about to throw out half of his hot dog, I’ll finish it off for him because I don’t like food waste either.”