Should you have children in the age of climate change? | The Tylt
Should you have children in the age of climate change?
Some researchers say people should consider having fewer children, or none altogether, because of climate change. Without radical action, the world will become inhospitable for humans. That's the bottom line. With fewer people in the world, there would be fewer sources of carbon. It's an uncomfortable idea but it's true. The average person's carbon footprint is roughly 20 metric tons. Check out the graphic below from the Guardian to see the impact having one fewer child would have, relative to other actions individuals can take to mitigate climate change.
“We recognise these are deeply personal choices. But we can’t ignore the climate effect our lifestyle actually has,” said Nicholas. “It is our job as scientists to honestly report the data. Like a doctor who sees the patient is in poor health and might not like the message ‘smoking is bad for you’, we are forced to confront the fact that current emission levels are really bad for the planet and human society.”
Others worry about the future they would be giving their children. It's still unclear exactly what climate change will exactly do to the environment but it's likely going to be bad. A worst case scenario would render swaths of the world inhospitable to human life sooner than we think. Even the best case scenario will fundamentally upset the world order as hundreds of thousands of people are displaced due to changes in climate.
Ethicists say parents should consider what kind of world they're bringing their children into. Is it the world that they themselves would want to live in? Maybe the best way to protect our children is to not have them at all.
In fact, without dramatic action, climatologists say, the world is on track to hit 4 degrees Celsius of warming by the end of the century, and worse beyond that. A World Bank report says this must be avoided, and warns of unprecedented heat waves, severe drought and serious impacts on ecosystems and "human systems."Back in the classroom, Rieder puts this in less technical terms: 4 degrees of warming would be "largely uninhabitable for humans.""It's gonna be post-apocalyptic movie time," he says.
Critics say the arguments about having fewer children miss the point. Climate change is a complex and large-scale political issue. Each person absolutely has to play their part, but that clouds the fact that only one hundred companies produce roughly 71 percent of global emissions.
It's true that reducing the population will reduce total emissions, but it's unlikely that enough people will willingly forgo children to stop climate change. Things need to change on the structural level if we have any hope at preserving the world we live in.
The report found that more than half of global industrial emissions since 1988 – the year the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was established – can be traced to just 25 corporate and state-owned entities. The scale of historical emissions associated with these fossil fuel producers is large enough to have contributed significantly to climate change, according to the report.
At a more fundamental level, our children are the entire reason why we should work to stop climate change. The people who are alive now will only experience the tip of the iceberg. Future generations will have to deal with the mess we've made no matter what we do. Not having children may be a radical step to try to slow climate change, but it's not nearly enough.
Have children, or don't, that's a personal choice. But to many not having children is essentially giving up on the future—we can't give up on creating a better future for those who come after us.