Having one less child is the best way for people to cut their personal carbon footprint, according to a new study by Canadian and Swedish scientists.
Having one less child is several dozen times more effective at reducing your personal contribution to global warming than conventional efforts, like recycling or installing rooftop solar panels, the study found. Scientists added that governments should “improve existing educational and communication structures” to promote smaller families as a solution to global warming.
If each American family decided to have one less child, the U.S. birthrate would be cut in half from 1.86 to 0.86 children per woman.
“In life, there are many values on which people make decisions and carbon is only one of them,” Kimberly Nicholas, a professor at Lund University in Sweden who was involved with the research, told The Guardian. “I don’t have children, but it is a choice I am considering and discussing with my fiance. Because we care so much about climate change that will certainly be one factor we consider in the decision, but it won’t be the only one.”
“We recognize these are deeply personal choices,” Nicholas said. “But we can’t ignore the climate effect our lifestyle actually has.”
People who choose to follow suit and have one fewer kid can reduce their carbon footprint 58.6 metric tons per year, according to the research.
In comparison, living entirely car-free would only reduce CO2 by 2.4 metric tons per year. Avoiding airplanes would only cut 1.6 metric tons per year and only eating plants would reduce it by just 0.8 metric tons per year.
National Public Radio (NPR) featured an academic philosopher last August who claimed morality requires Americans to stop having kids because of this. Such views are widespread enough in academia that some college kids are giving up on having children.
“Maybe we should protect our kids by not having them,” Travis Rieder, a philosopher at Johns Hopkins University, told NPR. “The situation is bleak, it’s just dark … Population engineering, maybe it’s an extreme move. But it gives us a chance.”
Rieder even acknowledges that slowing population growth would only achieve 20 to 25 percent of the cuts necessary to meet former President Barack Obama’s global warming goals.
Mainstream green groups, such as The Sierra Club, also hold a more limited version of the view that the freedom to have kids should be restricted to save the planet.
“Childbearing [should be] a punishable crime against society, unless the parents hold a government license … All potential parents [should be] required to use contraceptive chemicals, the government issuing antidotes to citizens chosen for childbearing” David Brower, the first executive director of The Sierra Club, stated in an interview.
There are entire environmental groups dedicated to the view that humans should stop having kids due to global warming and environmental issues. The Voluntary Human Extinction Movement, for example, claims that “voluntary human extinction is the humanitarian alternative to human disasters” and believes that humanity should commit species suicide rather than continue damaging the environment.
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