- Thomson Reuters
- Countries around the world are experiencing worsening symptoms of climate change, including flooding, powerful storms, and heat waves.
- A growing number of people are deciding to not have children, due to fears surrounding climate change, according to a recent New York Times report.
- Though the research on population growth’s effect on climate change is new, there’s evidence that a larger number of people contributes to higher greenhouse-gas emissions.
These are all symptoms of climate change, which scientists anticipate will worsen even if we proactively curb carbon emissions.
Due to fears surrounding climate change, a growing number of people are choosing to not have kids. A recent New York Times piece explores this trend, which has been intensifying over the past decade, especially in the US.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which includes over 1,300 scientists from the United States and other countries, say the most noticeable effects include longer heat waves and droughts, stronger hurricanes, an elevated risk of coastal flooding, as well as higher damage costs.
In interviews with The Times, more than a dozen people ages 18 to 43 (many of them cisgender American women) said they face ethical questions that previous generations did not need to confront. One of the most important questions: How do our personal actions affect the current and future health of the planet?
One Ohio woman, Amanda PerryMiller, said she fears “the end of the world as we know it.”
Cate Mumford, a 28-year-old Mormon American, said she has decided to adopt a child with her husband, despite disapproval from her church community. She described recently traveling to China, where air pollution is a national public health crisis.
On the trip, Mumford kept thinking, “I’m so glad I’m not going to bring a brand-new baby into this world to suffer like these kids suffer,” she told the Times.
Like Mumford, many women expressed new fears around bringing a child into a world that continues to see more intense flooding and hurricanes.
The concern over whether overpopulation exacerbates climate change is not new. A common worry is that the growth of the world’s population – which may rise from 7.4 billion people today to 9.8 billion by 2050 – will inevitably increase greenhouse-gas emissions, as well as water and food insecurity. A few countries, including China and the US, have enacted policy responses to population growth since the 1950s. These measures have ranged from limits on how many kids citizens can legally have to increasing access to contraceptive services.
At the same time, the research on how population growth contributes to climate change is relatively new. Scientists have only recently started to examine the link, and much of that research has been limited to effects on carbon emissions. A 2017 study notes that, while widespread lifestyle changes can reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, the issue of climate change is larger than the individual and will likely require political action to mitigate in meaningful ways.