Bioethicist: The climate crisis calls for fewer children

Rieder, Travis N. | September 27, 2016 | Leave a Comment Download as PDF

Thousands gather at Science World for the November 16th #DefendOurClimate day of action, Vancouver's contribution to more than 130 gatherings of Canadians across the country standing up for science-based action on climate change, and an end the fossil-fueled greed perpetrated by Harper and his embarrassing government. Children Chalk by Chris Yakimov | Flickr | CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

This post was originally published by The Conversation on September 11, 2016. The original article is available here.

Earlier this summer, I found myself in the middle of a lively debate because of my work on climate change and the ethics of having children.

NPR correspondent Jennifer Ludden profiled some of my work in procreative ethics with an article entitled, “Should we be having kids in the age of climate change?,” which summarized my published views that we ought to consider adopting a “small family ethic” and even pursuing fertility reduction efforts in response to the threat from climate change. Although environmentalists for decades have worried about overpopulation for many good reasons, I suggest the fast-upcoming thresholds in climate change provide uniquely powerful reasons to consider taking real action to slow population growth.

Clearly, this idea struck a nerve: I was overwhelmed by the response in my personal email inbox as well as op-eds in other media outlets and over 70,000 shares on Facebook. I am gratified that so many people took the time to read and reflect on the piece.

Having read and digested that discussion, I want to continue it by responding to some of the most vocal criticisms of my own work, which includes research on “population engineering” – the intentional manipulation of human population size and structure – I’ve done with my colleagues, Jake Earl and Colin Hickey.

In short, the varied arguments against my views – that I’m overreacting, that the economy will tank and others – haven’t changed my conviction that we need to discuss the ethics of having children in this era of climate change.

How bad will things get?

Some comments – those claiming climate change is a hoax, devised by those who wish to control the world’s resources – are not worth responding to. Since 97 percent of all relevant experts cannot convince climate change skeptics of the basic scientific facts, then nothing I say will change their minds.

Other concerns, however, do require a response. Many people reacted to my work on procreation ethics by saying climate change will not be so bad, and so curbing individual desires, such as having children, in its name is unnecessary fear-mongering.

In my work, I suggest that 1.5-2 degrees Celsius warming over preindustrial levels will be “dangerous” and “very bad,” while 4 degrees C will be “catastrophic” and will leave large segments of the Earth “largely uninhabitable by humans.” Here is a very brief survey of the evidence for those claims based on what I consider reputable sources.

At 1.5-2 degrees C, a World Bank report predicts an increase in extreme weather events, deadly heat waves and severe water stress. Food production will decrease, and changing disease vectors will create unpredictable infectious disease outbreaks. Sea levels will rise, combining with increased storm severity to place coastal cities at risk. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that from the years 2030-2050 – as we reach this level of warming – at least 250,000 people will die every year from just some of the climate-related harms.

It’s widely recognized that the global poor will disproportionately suffer the consequences of climate change. Here people displaced by flooding in Pakistan in 2010 line up for water. Asian Development Bank, CC BY-NC-ND
It’s widely recognized that the global poor will disproportionately suffer the consequences of climate change. Here people displaced by flooding in Pakistan in 2010 line up for water. Asian Development Bank, CC BY-NC-ND

Perhaps many of us in rich countries (the “us” who might be reading this) will be largely protected from these early harms; but that doesn’t make them less real to the vulnerable citizens of, say, Bangladesh, Kiribati or the Maldives. In fact, it escalates the injustice, as the global wealthy have benefited from and contributed to climate change the most, while the global poor will be hurt first and worst.

At 4 degrees C warming, the World Bank predicts that every summer month will be hotter than any current record heat wave, making the Middle East, North Africa and the Mediterranean deadly during the summer months. Many coastal cities will be completely under water, and all low-lying island nations will likely have to be abandoned. Hundreds of millions, if not billions of people could become climate refugees, as their homelands become uninhabitable.

Based on these descriptions, I stand by my predictions.

No, environmentalists don’t hate babies

Other critics have argued that advocating for a lower birth rate = hating babies or being “anti-life.”

Obviously I don’t hate babies! I’m pretty wild about my own kid, and small humans in general.

This anti-life charge is more interesting, but equally wrong. The premise seems to be that those who wish to lower fertility rates must be misanthropic, or fail to see the value of humans. But that gets things exactly backwards: A radical concern for climate change is precisely motivated by a concern for human life – in particular, the human lives that will be affected by climate disruptions.

A valuable philosophical contribution here is the distinction between “making people happy” and “making happy people.” When I feed a hungry person, or prevent a harm from befalling someone, I improve a person’s well-being. But when I create a person whom I will then feed and prevent from harm, I make a person who will predictably be well off. In the first case, I added happiness to the world by helping an existing person; whereas in the second case, I added happiness by creating a person who will be happy. See the difference?

I, like many philosophers, believe that it’s morally better to make people happy than to make happy people. Those who exist already have needs and wants, and protecting and providing for them is motivated by respect for human life. It is not a harm to someone not to be created.

In fact, I would argue that it is more “anti-life” to prioritize creating new life over caring for, or even not harming, those who already exist.

Can the economy grow with lower population growth?

Another opposing argument: People are not only consumers – they are also producers, and so will make the world better.

Yes, humans are producers, and many wonderful things have come from human genius. But each person, whatever else they are (genius or dunce, producer or drag on the economy) is also a consumer. And this is the only claim needed in order to be worried about climate change.

The problem here is that we have a finite resource – the ability of the Earth’s atmosphere to absorb greenhouse gases without violently disrupting the climate – and each additional person contributes to the total amount of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere. So although humans will hopefully save us (we do, in fact, desperately need brilliant people to develop scaleable technology to remove carbon from the air, for instance), the solution to this cannot be to have as many babies as possible, with the hope that this raises our probability of solving the problem. Because each baby is also an emitter, whether a genius or not.

Lastly, there’s the view that lowering fertility rates will kill the economy.

Several commenters point to low-fertility countries like Japan, Italy and Germany, and argue that problems experienced by such countries are proof that the “real” population crisis is our dropping fertility rate. We need more babies to grow into healthy young producers to keep our economic engine humming.

The truth in this objection is the following: An economy that requires infinite growth to be healthy will be harmed in a world of finite resources. But if it’s true that our economies can’t survive slowing or even reversing population growth, then we’re in some trouble no matter what.

Why? It’s simple logic that we cannot grow our population forever. We can either reflect now on how to protect our economy while working toward a sustainable population, or we can ignore the problem until nature forces it on us, perhaps violently and unexpectedly.

I’ll conclude with one, final thought: I don’t enjoy arguing for a small family ethic, or a population engineering scheme. Despite snide accusations to the contrary, I get no research funds or any other incentive for making this case. I’m arguing these points because I’m genuinely worried about the future of our planet, and the people who will inherit it, and I believe difficult yet civil discussion is the crucial first step to making that future one we won’t be condemned for creating.

This post was originally published by The Conversation on September 11, 2016. The original article is available here. It is republished here under a CC BY-ND 4.0 license.

 is a Research Scholar at the Berman Institute of Bioethics, Johns Hopkins University.

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  • JohnTaves

    @disqus_tlYfJ2GWHr:disqus Yes, that is patently obvious.

    What should be just as obvious, but is just as unknown, is that we and all species always average too many babies. The theory of natural selection/evolution depends upon extra babies being born that cause child mortality.

    There’s a simple math formula. Children must die at the rate of (x-2)/x where x is how many babies we average. Notice how obvious this formula is, but how totally unknown it is. Please find any population expert or educator that has mentioned this formula. The only reason we have not seen children dying at that rate in the past few hundred years is because we have managed to increase subsistence production. The population has flawlessly filled the new capacity as new techniques (e.g. refrigeration, modern fertilizers, transportation, packaging, etc…) enable more production.

    We expect that the children will die of starvation related causes, because this is entirely about too many people for too few resources. Because we group ourselves (countries, villages, families, etc), we do no expect these deaths to be randomly distributed throughout the world. We expect to find clumps of people suffering horrible rates of starvation related child mortality when we average too many babies for too long. We have always had these symptoms. Of course we have always had these symptoms, there is no mechanism that ensures we somehow magically regulate our fertility to ensure we do not cause child mortality.

    But notice the other blatantly obvious problem here. This discussion is about CO2 emissions, as if the waste product of burning fossil fuels is the only problem. This is like saying that the empty cans of food littering the deck of the Magellan’s ships is the problem while ignoring the fact that the crew is eating the stores of food. We need to burn the fossil fuels to create enough food to keep 7+ billion people alive at one time. The last time humans kept their numbers alive using only renewable means, the population was below 1 billion. This represents an horrific premature death potential. That potential can only be mitigated by averaging less than 2 babies world wide until we no longer require the use of resources faster than they renew to keep our numbers alive.

    Does the MAHB understand these concepts? Um, no.

    • liveoak

      “there is no mechanism that ensures we somehow magically regulate our fertility to ensure we do not cause child mortality.”

      No, there is no “mechanism”–it could have been done using human intelligence, but we seem to have missed our chance sometime during the 20th century.

      “We need to burn the fossil fuels to create enough food to keep 7+ billion people alive at one time.”

      Yes, this seems to be the corner we have backed ourselves into. I guess we can thank all the “conservatives” and population-problem-deniers and general social inertia for the “horrific premature death potential” we have before us, unless some major, MAJOR shifts in our human social-ecological systems come about really soon. Not impossible, but it doesn’t seem likely.

      • JohnTaves

        “it could have been done using human intelligence, but we seem to have missed our chance sometime during the 20th century.” — I agree that it can only be done with human intelligence. We need to understand and teach these concepts. Everyone on the planet needs to know these simple facts:
        1) Averaging too many babies causes child mortality, and we have always averaged too many babies. It creates the groups of people that suffer horrible poverty and starvation related child mortality.
        2) If your descendants average too many babies, they will cause child mortality. This means every religion, every family, every person must keep track of the number of babies they have to ensure they are not causing child mortality. You cannot use someone else to offset your extras, it must be your children. (e.g. if you have 3, they cannot create more than 4 grandchildren for you.)
        3) If we are consuming resources faster than they renew, we must average less than 2.

        This knowledge had no chance of being known by everyone prior to the 20th century. The communication systems just didn’t exist, so I don’t get “missed our chance”. We have the chance right now. We have to explain this to our population scientists, for example Paul Ehrlich, so that they can help explain it to other educators, so that this topic can be taught.

        “Yes, this seems to be the corner we have backed ourselves into.” — I don’t see the corner. If we can know these concepts, we can ensure we average few enough to stop the child mortality, and average even less than that to bring our numbers down to the point where we no longer require the use of resources faster than they renew. This isn’t a corner and we didn’t back ourselves into it. Humans, and all species, have always been causing childhood deaths by averaging too babies.

        “I guess we can thank all the “conservatives” and population-problem-deniers and general social inertia for the “horrific premature death potential” we have before us” — No, we cannot blame anyone for the failure to comprehend these concepts. These deaths have been happening forever. There is no event or era that caused it or made it worse. In fact, the past several hundred years of subsistence production increases have been fantastic, because while the food supply increases, the child mortality rate is lower (for a given average number of babies that we have). In other words, we must change our perspective to understand that a rising population is not the problem. Averaging too many babies is the problem, and failure to know this is the immediate problem.

        Travis N. Rieder does not know these concepts.
        Paul Ehrlich does not know these concepts.
        Joel Cohen (author of “how many people can Earth support”) does not know these concepts.
        Thomas Malthus did not comprehend these concepts.

        Nobody seems to comprehend these concepts. You can blame me for failure to explain the concepts. I need help. How do we explain this to the MAHB members, for example? How do we explain this to Travis Reider?

        • liveoak

          Hi John–

          “every person must keep track of the number of babies they have to ensure they are not causing child mortality . . .”

          You write as though this is something we can do in the future and everything will be OK. I say we missed our chance to do something way back in the 20th century, back when Paul Ehrlich was warning us about our exponential growth, just past the midpoint of the century, when we were in the process of doubling again to our present size, which I, along with a number of others, think is already much too large to be sustained over time. Trying to support seven-billion-plus with no end in sight, coupled with the newfound knowledge that the industrial mega-systems which keep them alive now are making the planet uninhabitable is the “corner” we have backed ourselves into, and since I know a few–very few–people have been trying to focus attention on this problem for a very long time and have generally been rebuffed if not ostracized for their efforts, I do think there are certain people and certain social processes to blame for our current situation.

          You write “while the food supply increases, the child mortality rate is lower (for a
          given average number of babies that we have). In other words, we must
          change our perspective to understand that a rising population is not the
          problem. Averaging too many babies is the problem . . .” and I must confess that I do not know what you mean by this. Is it that you do not want to think in terms of an overall limit to our entire human species, as it bumps up against the limits of a finite planet, but rather just in terms of particular subgroupings of humans, each with a different average number of babies and a different child mortality rate, subgroupings that you assume could survive indefinitely if they maintained their current size by keeping all future offspring down to 2 or less per family? I think the world is already far too interconnected for that. Moreover, if and when our present support systems go down–and I think our global “economy” is now such a product of fantasy that, short of drastic restructuring, something like that is inevitable–it won’t be just “child mortality” that we will be dealing with. People of all ages are going to find themselves without a means of support, and the result won’t be pretty. The “great acceleration” our species embarked upon over the last century or so is not going to end well. Since we haven’t hit the wall yet, however, we can at least try to be honest with ourselves, and try to minimize the damage we wreak on the biosphere as much as possible.

          • JohnTaves

            “You write as though this is something we can do in the future” – Yes, I see no reason why we cannot learn the concepts I am trying to explain and change our morality to know that having too many babies is lethal.

            “…and everything will be OK” – I have made no predictions about the future and more importantly, I think Ehrlich’s predictions were a problem. They were vague enough that he can believe those predictions were correct, and others conclude they were not correct. These useless predictions discredited the fundamental concept, which is that we depend upon fossil fuels to feed our numbers which means we have a potential for premature death. The last time we managed to keep our numbers alive using only renewable means, our numbers were below 1 billion. This suggests a magnitude for that potential premature death. (notice how I stated this without predicting the future).

            “and I must confess that I do not know what you mean by this” — Excellent feedback. I will try to explain it differently.

            “Is it that you do not want to think in terms of an overall limit to our entire human species” — On the contrary, I know that we are at the population limit. I know that humans have generally always been at the population limit. The problem is that population scientists do not have a proper definition of “at the limit”. They think it is some higher number where the population cannot grow and they imagine horrible living conditions. This is wrong. The correct definition is the situation where births are causing child mortality. In other words, births are arriving at a rate that attempts to grow the numbers faster than we/nature can keep them alive.

            We have millions of childhood deaths every year from starvation related causes. These deaths are exactly what happens when a population is at the limit and averaging too many babies. This situation is the normal situation for all species. It is so normal and common that we totally fail to comprehend that births are killing children.

            The population has risen dramatically in the past several hundred years because we have figured out how to keep more alive at one time. If the population grows next year, it is not because we averaged too many babies, we are always doing that, it is because we figured out how to keep more alive.

            My point is that we must recognize the difference between the situation where the population is not growing as fast as the births are attempting to grow it, vs the situation where the births are not attempting to grow the population. The first situation is the only reality we have ever known. The second has never happened.

            Furthermore, notice that when I write “births are arriving at a rate that attempts to grow the numbers faster than we/nature can keep them alive.” I am including negative growth. If fossil fuels were to rapidly decrease in availability in the near future the number of people we are capable of keeping alive at one time might be decreasing each year. The average number of babies we create must be less than 2 to avoid death caused by averaging too many babies. It might be less than 1. I am not trying to predict, I am just trying to explain that when I write “growth” I am referring to both positive and negative growth.

        • trilemmaman

          Perhaps your ‘principle’ is wrong. And your minds capacity to grasp the reality that it can be mistaken is at fault. If you are relying on simple math to predict the future of earth’s capacity AS IT IS you have not taken into account thousands of other influencing factors that can increase earth’s capacity or our eventual capacity to leave earth…IF we can overcome our mind’s incapacity to grasp profoundly complex equations…instead of relying on grade school math.

          • JohnTaves

            I wish the principle was wrong. It would make a mind boggling problem that I struggle with go away. The mind boggling problem is not these simple principles that I am trying to explain, it is the total refusal of people to think about them. Not once have you refuted any of my statements. You’ve highlighted none of my sentences and shown the logic flaw. As far as I can tell, the statements I make disagree with the belief system you have and your only response is to repeat that belief system.

            I have not relied on any math at all to predict the future of Earth’s capacity. I do not waste my time attempting to predict anything regarding the future. I am totally sincere when I ask you to tell me why you thought I was attempting to predict the future of Earth’s capacity. Why? What did I write that suggested I give a rats ass about any calculations along those lines?

            Attempting to put a number on how many can be kept alive is the wrong approach if you want to understand what matters on this topic. Instead, ask a different question. Ask what must happen if our numbers are at the limit where no more can be added and we average more than 2? What happens when we average too many babies for too long? How can we spot the symptoms of averaging too many babies for too long? What stops us from averaging too many babies for too long?

            There are simple and obviously correct answers to those questions. They provide actionable knowledge. They make Paul Ehrlich’s, Julian Simon and Joel Cohen’s writing look silly. They force us to recognize the real meaning of the current definition of “overpopulation” and they provide a definition for Earth’s capacity that requires no numbers, no calculations, and is frankly pretty damn simple.

            I have stated the answers to those questions many times on this MAHB forum. Why, please tell me why, you managed to conclude that I was “relying on simple math to predict the future of Earth’s capacity”?

  • liveoak

    “it would be incredibly difficult to successfully educate a global community
    about the dangers of global resource depletion , and by the time we have
    educated children about the true value of their lives . . .”

    I’m not sure what this comment is really saying, since it
    seems to start out pessimistic and end with optimism. But I think we do
    discourage ourselves by assuming that “it would be incredibly
    difficult” to transmit a perspective that sees our species within its
    biospherical context, and therefore we fail to even try. But I’m not so sure how difficult it really is.

    This morning I had a conversation with an intelligent man who confided to me that he
    was “a conservative,” and I challenged him as to the meaning of
    “conservative” by asking him what, specifically, he was conservative OF.
    It seems to me that the impetus of most political “conservatives”
    is a matter of “conserving” the socially constructed money
    game–shaky as it is, some of them do benefit from it in the short run–and
    perhaps a certain set of social values that are all based on the unarticulated
    assumption that we can take continued human survival for granted. However, it
    leads to precisely the opposite of “conserving” that which actually
    sustains our lives, the functional ecosystems of the planet.

    This fellow was not well educated about ecology, but he had
    a fairly open mind. When I explained to him what the global NPP was, the annual
    total of what is produced by all the green plants around the globe carrying out
    photosynthesis that makes up the base of all the food webs on Earth, he was
    kind of amazed, because he had never thought about things on that level before.
    And when I told him that our one species is currently co-opting somewhere
    between a quarter and a third of the global NPP, he was astonished. He
    acknowledged that he knew the human population was more than six billion (he
    tried to resist the fact that it’s now, since he last heard a figure, which
    seemed recent to him, over seven), but he didn’t seem to have a handle on
    exponential growth until I used an example regrettably much more familiar to him and
    most people, the way compound interest seems to “produce”
    something–although it’s just a matter of making more abstract numbers through
    multiplication, nothing tangible or useful to Life in the way that the NPP
    is–which led him to think a little bit about how rapidly things could happen
    in the future. He also tried to counter with the old confabulation about
    “the whole human population, if everyone stood on a piece of land a meter
    square, could fit within the state of New Jersey”–an image that seems to
    have been about as effective as the cartoon of the Trade Center Towers
    “pancaking” down, as if driven by a nonexistent piledriver-in-the-sky, in
    keeping people confused about what’s really going on. But when I went back to
    anthropogenic species extinction, and the incredible takeover of the land and
    seas necessary to feed seven billion people, he did start giving some thought to a different picture of reality.

    And then I brought up another favorite topic
    of “conservatives,” abortion. I asked, why do you want more and more
    people to be brought into existence on this planet? Given the fact that more
    and more humans translate into less and less living space and NPP for all the
    other forms of Life–living beings that were also created by God, if you
    believe in “Him”–isn’t it the anti-abortion position that is really
    anti-Life? He did not have a good answer for that one.

    I think that, with this man, at least, I
    got some information across, and made some points that he will
    actually ponder. What I can’t quite understand is why so few other people seem
    to be willing to argue along these lines. No, you don’t have to “hate
    babies” to care about the future of all Life on Earth. But no, human
    beings are NOT “producers” in the ecological sense–only the green
    plants are. We just move stuff around, re-package it, and try to get other people to
    “buy” it–playing games with money, which in itself is
    nothing–nothing but a symbol. I think my friend is still trying to wrap his head
    around that one, but he’s smart enough to see what I’m getting at. In the words
    of John Searle, all our “social objects,” like money, or the complicated
    institutions constructed around them, creations of collective human
    intentionality, are ontologically subjective–should we stop believing in them, they would cease to exist. Appreciating this fact, together
    with the fact that our burgeoning human project is busily dismantling the
    systems that really do support our lives in the process of “making money”
    within our humanly constructed game, tends to make one aware of how precarious
    our situation really is. I look forward to my next conversation with him.

    • JohnTaves

      My 16 yr old son is taking a course in high school on the environment and sustainability. I ask, what happens if the environment is trashed? What happens if we are not sustainable? What is the bottom line? He didn’t know. Premature death is the bottom line. People must die young.

      Next, notice that averaging too many babies translates to dead children. Put yourself on the Starship Enterprise and imagine it can keep 1000 people alive. Now, answer who has to die and at what rate, if those 1000 people average say 3 babies? My 15 yr old nephew sat down with a piece of paper and figured it out. 1/3 of the children, and only children, must die. The general formula is that (x-2)/x children must die when we average x babies.

      My point is that talking about environmental NPP misses the point. That conservative man did not leave the discussion with the knowledge that averaging more than 2 babies attempts to grow our numbers to infinity and that the one and only necessary consequence of averaging too many babies is dead children. I said “necessary” because we can also have unnecessary consequences like, lower adult life expectancy, poverty, environmental destruction, species extinction. But mathematically, scientifically, and logically only dead children is required. He didn’t leave with the knowledge that humans have always averaged too many babies and didn’t leave knowing that the consequence is the groups of people that we see on TV suffering starvation.

      I went to the Population Association of America conference in WA DC this year. There was a session about child mortality. There were 4 different reports on the topic. Not one of these population experts comprehended that averaging too many babies causes child mortality. Not one of them comprehended that children must die at the rate of (x-2)/x. Think about how mindless this is! These are population experts discussing the causes of death of children. Those causes are generally all about a lack of space (to get away from mosquitoes), lack of clean water, and lack of sufficient nutrition, yet none of these experts recognized that it is the simple existence of 7b other humans that is depriving these children. These experts all were looking for better food distribution, better drug distribution, better education solutions, as if these people were incapable of feeding themselves and moving away from the mosquitoes. The only thing that stops them from getting the subsistence is the existence of other people. How tough is this to understand??!?!

      This is like going to a physics convention and finding nobody that knows the formula for gravity.

  • jason G. Brent

    Global warming is only a very small part of the problem. The problem is that we must understand that the planet and the resources it can provide humanity are limited and finite. We must understand the power of compound growth and that both population and the economies of the nations of the world grow in a compound manner. Presidential candidate, Donald Trump, stated that if he were elected president he would make the economy of the USA grow at a compound rate of 3.5% per year. That growth rate would result in a doubling time of approximately 20 years and in just 80 years (before the year 2100) the economy of the United States would be 16 times as large as the current economy–2,4,8,16. While no one has analyzed the relationship between economic growth and resource usage, a very conservative estimate would be 50%. Therefore, if the economy of the USA were grow by a factor of 16, the resource usage would grow by a factor of 8. And the resource usage of the United States cannot and will not grow by a factor of 8 before the year 2100. Taking the power of compound growth a little farther— in 200 years the growth factor would be over thousand, in 400 years over on million, and in 600 years over 1 billion. In order for humanity to survive on the planet all growth must cease. It is that simple. Jason G. Brent

  • hennie gerhardus

    _ whether we may call it a population engineering schema or an ethical solution to timeline over-population prevention , it would be incredibly difficult to successfully educate a global community about the dangers of global resource depletion , and by the time we have educated children about the true value of their lives and about the intrinsically valuable contributions they would bring to our global society by simply extending time to marriage by ten years or more , and how that would disperse the world population in such a way that would not only benefit the economy , but would also allow them to raise a complete family . with our life expectancy extending it is becoming ever more important to make intelligent decisions about exactly when couples should start a family . there is enough time to study , to advance in our careers , to experience the gift of life , adventure and travel . if we could all agree that by delaying having babies until in our early or mid thirties even early forties , we can still see our kids grow up , we can still enjoy the richness of retirement .

    if we disperse our reproduction over a longer timeline , would we not greatly relieve the pressure on natural resources , and would that not be good for the economy if everybody could give themselves the time to actually reach financial maturity prior to establishing a family ?

    or am i nonsensical ?

  • William Dowling

    Of course we should be calling for far fewer children to help tackle climate change!
    The simple reason is that it is no use reducing our individual carbon footprints if we keep increasing the number of feet.
    The huge issue involved here is the lifetime CO2 emissions of yet another human being added onto the planet. At an average 9 tonnes of CO2 per year for 70 years that is currently something like a total lifetime emission of 700 tonnes for an average UK citizen, and it will be far more e.g. in the USA and Canada..
    Every time another child is born (and the net gain is close to 10,000 more every hour!) in order to just stand still in respect of total global CO2 emissions, all 7.4 billion people already on the planet need to cut their emissions a little bit more immediately to compensate for the population increase.- which is currently running at a billion more people every 12 years!
    Just do the maths. Isn’t all of this patently obvious?