Having Children: Is Climate Change Really a Reason Not to Have Children?
8 minute read
Updated on: 28 Jan 2021
“Should I have fewer children to lower my impact on climate change?” This is a question that is often raised in the debate on how we can reduce our personal emissions.
We’ll try to answer it, focussing mainly on the developed world. For developing nations, we must take a different perspective, which will be covered in our course ’A Fair World’. Now, onto the question!
On average, each person on Earth is responsible for around 5 tons of CO₂ emissions per year. This, however, varies greatly depending on which country the person is in. In the US, 16 tons of consumption-based CO₂ are emitted per person each year . In India this number was only 1.84 tons per person per year in 2016 .
The high emissions contributed by each individual in developed countries have led some to think that, by having fewer children, we can reduce our carbon footprint. Is this really the case?
Does having fewer children really reduce emissions?
Remember the climate equation from the Crash Course?
Total emissions = P x E x C
Where P = population, E = emissions per service and C= consumption of services per person. By having fewer children, we would reduce P, which would in turn decrease carbon emissions, right?
Well, let’s look at some predictions. The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) has a set of models that predict carbon emissions based on policy choices and technology, known as the Shared Socioeconomic Pathways (SSP). The specific model that best fits current climate policies is called SSP2 .
What if we used the SSP2’s projections for carbon emissions from 2020-2100 for wealthy countriesto determine emissions associated with having a child? We find that having one fewer child in a wealthy country would reduce an individual’s carbon footprint by 7.8 tons per year over an 80-year lifespan .