Environmentalists have claimed for decades that the decision to have a child is one of the most environmentally damaging choices a person can make.
The U.S. birthrate sunk to the lowest level ever recorded Thursday. Only 3.85 billion babies were born last year, about 60.2 births per every 1,000 women ages 15 to 44. Experts worry about the pressure the trend is placing on programs like social security and Medicare which rely on a robust foundation of young workers to cover the costs of elderly Americans, The Wall Street Journal reports. (RELATED: Bill Nye: Should Parents Be Penalized For Having ‘Extra Kids?’)
“Across all cultures, raising a child is considered one of the most rewarding things a person can do,” environmental expert and author Bjorn Lomborg writes in Project Syndicate. “Yet a chorus of campaigners, scientists, and journalists suggest that everyone should think twice before procreating.”
Lomborg is a visiting professor at the Copenhagen Business School and serves as director of the Copenhagen Consensus Center, a Danish think tank that specializes in cost-benefit analyses of international issues and policy.
Lomborg traces the environmental call to restrict births to the 1970s. Fear of overpopulation incited panic and dire predictions of a global collapse through dwindling resources. The National Organization for Non-Parents, formed in 1972 by U.S. activists, “promoted childfree living as both a socially respectable and politically responsible reproductive choice,” according to a 2016 academic paper on the group.
Scientists in the past decade have latched onto the rationale used in the ’70s, that a growing population of people will cause permanent damage to the climate and use up Earth’s natural resources.
“In discussions about climate change, we tend to focus on the carbon emissions of an individual over his or her lifetime,” Oregon State University Professor Paul Murtaugh told The New York Times in 2009. “Those are important issues and it’s essential that they should be considered. But an added challenge facing us is continuing population growth and increasing global consumption of resources.”
“I don’t have children, but it is a choice I am considering and discussing with my fiancé,” Kimberly Nicholas, a member of an environmental research team at Lund University in Sweden told The Guardian in July 2017. “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.”
Climate change has yet to have a conclusive, measurable impact on the global economy. Its damages are expected to make up 2 percent of global GDP in the next 50 years and 3 to 4 percent in the next century, according to Lomborg.
“Climate change certainly is a challenge we must confront,” Lomborg writes. “But scaring people from having children denies potential parents what is often seen as one of the best things life has to offer … Doing little environmental good at such a huge human cost is a bad deal for everyone.”
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