Climate change is scary, but don’t let it stop you from having children – iNews | Directory Mayhem

Climate change is scary. The latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change last week highlighted how frightening this is. It warned us about the risk that many species will become extinct around the world by 2100, and also urged us to prepare for the increased risks of flooding, malnutrition and food insecurity, waterborne diseases, and a whole host of things, including “irreversible and severe loss of ecosystem services and biodiversity” in the Amazon basin. And that’s at just 2°C of warming above pre-industrial levels – we’ve already seen about 1.1°C, and more is being burned in.

It’s understandable that people are concerned – so much so that climate change could be the reason some avoid having children.

Of course, that’s not the only reason why birth rates have fallen. There are many – in the UK, for example, there are prohibitive housing prices, huge childcare costs and a lack of support for working parents.

But lately, there have been many stories that suggest people are choosing not to become parents because of the world they have to grow up in. Climate change is accelerating and impacting fertility rates faster than any previous trend in the field of fertility decline”.

Meanwhile said Dr. Britt Wray, a Human and Planetary Health Fellow at Stanford University in the US, last year that “fear of a worsening future due to climate change” is driving the fall in birth rates in the West.

And people are concerned about more than their children suffering in a harsher and more dangerous environment. They also worry about the impact having a child will have on the climate – 60 percent of young Americans surveyed said they were concerned about the “carbon footprint of reproduction” as well as the well-being of present or future children .

It is understandable. But that doesn’t mean it’s correct. If you don’t want to have children, that’s fine. On the other hand, if you do If you want to have children but are in denial for fear of climate change or aggravation, many experts will reassure you that it would be a mistake – having children is fine.

“It has two dimensions,” he says dr Hannah Richie, environmental scientist and research director at Our World in Data. “One is that you shouldn’t have children because their future will be so bad that it’s not ethical to bring them into the world. The other is that you shouldn’t do it because it will have an impact on the climate. And I don’t like it either.”

A study has shown that having a child reduces a person’s carbon emissions by the equivalent of almost 60 tonnes of CO2 per year (Photo: Tommaso Di Girolamo/Getty)

The future is not all bad

Ritchie points out that most climate scientists she knows have young children. “There’s a disconnect,” she says, “between the general public who have this concern and climate scientists, who are more aware of the risks than anyone. If the people who study this every day still have children, that should be a signal that the risk for children is not that high.”

To be clear, it’s true that climate change is likely to make life worse than it otherwise would have been. In a world without climate change, there would be less risk of floods, various diseases, droughts, wildfires and famines.

But the question is not, “Will the world be worse?” but “Will the world be so bad that you’d rather not be born into it?” – and that seems very unlikely. Even the IPCC’s more stringent projections of temperature rises above 4°C speak of more severe floods and droughts, heat waves and so on. These are bad things. But they are not talking about the collapse of civilization or human extinction.

The unfair thing about climate change is that it is likely to hit the poorest nations the hardest. But most people worried about children seem to live in the wealthy West, which will be less affected. It is very unlikely that climate change will result in children in the UK having a worse life than, say, their grandparents and no one believes the baby boomer generation would rather not have been born.

And there is a counterforce: the world is getting richer. “It’s critical for the poorest countries to be richer and more resilient,” Ritchie said.

To give an extreme example, we are concerned that rising sea levels will inundate Bangladesh as the climate warms. But about a third of the land area of ​​the Netherlands is under water, and being a rich country it can deal with it with dykes and pumps. Bangladesh is trying, but because it’s much poorer, it’s more difficult. However, it is getting richer quickly due to global trade and improving technology, and as the seas rise it will be better able to handle it, as will the rest of the world. All of the IPCC’s scenarios, even the most stringent, assume that economies will continue to grow, although worst-case growth is much slower.

Bangladesh is one of the countries hardest hit by flooding as climate change worsens (Photo: Maruf Rahman/Getty)

Fast Facts: Concern for the future

A survey of 10,000 young people in 10 different countries last year found that more than half of them believed that “mankind is doomed”. The study, published in The lancetcalled for more support for the mental health of “children facing a future badly damaged by climate change”.

According to the World Bank, the average woman in a high-income country today has just 1.6 children in her lifetime. That is well below the population replacement level of 2.1 children per woman.

If energy consumption in developing countries were to increase at the same rate as the average person in Europe, world energy production would have to triple.

Having kids won’t make much of a difference

In 2017, a study garnered a lot of attention that allegedly found that not having children is one of the most powerful things you can do to reduce your carbon footprint: it suggested that having a child cuts your emissions by the equivalent would reduce by almost 60 tons of CO2 per year.

But acc dr Zeke Hausvater, climate scientist at the Breakthrough Institute and father of a young daughter himself: “Children consume much less than adults. If you drive your child in your car, the marginal impact of driving the child is fairly small. Heat the house, drive parking spaces – we do that anyway.”

Of course there are exceptions – after writing this I will be driving my son to soccer practice and I wouldn’t have done that if it weren’t for him. But in general he has less impact on the world than I do.

The question, of course, is whether he will have a greater impact as an adult. The 2017 study assumed that every child is responsible for carbon emissions to the same extent as their parents and that they would later have children of their own who would do the same.

But, says Hausvater, if that’s true, then we’ve failed. “If we don’t reach net zero in the next 40 years, whether we have fewer children or not, we’re not solving the problem.” Fortunately, we’re making extraordinary progress in renewable energy, and it’s very likely we’ll be zero by then or will have near-zero net emissions. My son’s kids will very likely go carbon free (or something really bad has happened).

Ritchie points out that the West simply cannot reduce population fast enough to make a difference. Even if almost everyone in rich countries stopped having children now, it would make little difference to the overall population—the entire West has a population of only about a billion, and our birth rates are already below replacement levels.

“If we lower birth rates in rich countries a little, it won’t change much,” she says. “To tackle climate change, we need a low-carbon economy and a low-carbon world, large-scale solutions for billions of people. It might make a difference whether [we go down to] a billion people, but the difference between eight and nine billion isn’t really noticeable.”

This is especially true as developing countries are catching up fast – which is good – and their populations continue to grow. “It will be poor and middle-income countries that will drive future emissions in a world where we don’t skip fossil fuels,” says Hausfather. “It doesn’t mean that countries like the US or the UK don’t have a responsibility, but if we want India or Indonesia or sub-Saharan Africa not to build coal [power stations] We have to offer them cheaper alternatives – solar, nuclear, hydrogen. The big thing is to do [green] Energy cheap.”

Children give us a reason to do things better

The cost of renewable energy has fallen dramatically. A watt of solar generating capacity cost about $100 (£75) in 1976; it’s now less than half a cent. In 2020, the International Energy Agency declared that solar energy was “the cheapest electricity in history”.

This has caused global demand for fossil fuels to slow and will soon decline, although policy progress has been slow at times. This becomes clear in the scenarios of the IPCC. “People still have in mind that we’re heading for five, six, seven degrees of warming,” Ritchie says. “But the scenarios we’re looking at now just aren’t there. The current political course is heading for 2.7 °C. That’s too high, but there’s still potential to lower it significantly.

“There are reasons to be somewhat optimistic with the advances in technology, how fast it’s going, how fast prices are falling. We are moving in a positive direction and things are accelerating.”

If you Not Think if you thought things were just going to stagnate or get worse – then maybe it would make sense to panic, but the world is finding solutions.

And both Ritchie and Hausfather make a more philosophical point: Who are we doing this for, anyway? “If we don’t have children, who are we then?” says Hausvater. “What are we saving the planet for? At the end of the day, we leave our children a better world, and that means having them.” Ritchie agrees: “When we say we need to fight climate change for future generations, it’s weird not to reproduce, so we have it not done have future generations.”

Climate change is scary. But it’s not so bad that we have to give up the future.

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