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Woman Holding Birth ControlRaising children is a major life goal for many couples. Yet with climate change threatening irreversible impacts on our planet, many question whether having kids is a responsible move. Producing offspring is only one way to build a family, but this reluctance to procreate may expose some doubts about humanity’s future. Understanding their motives and examining family-building alternatives can help us understand what’s potentially at stake.

Facing an Uncertain Global Future

Scientists warn of a shrinking food supply in the wake of extreme weather conditions. According to CNBC’s Emma Newburger, the United Nations’ climate change scientific panel reported that global warming has already led to diminished crop yields, reduced livestock productivity, and increases of diseases and pests. Were temperatures to increase by another 2 degrees Celsius, it would trigger an international food crisis.

Wars over dwindling resources are a plot staple in science fiction, but they also play out in real life. Bloomberg’s Jonathan Tirone discusses an early 2019 study demonstrating direct links between shifting climate, armed conflicts, and refugees. The study pointed to worsening climate conditions in the Middle East triggering violence from Syria to Sudan as well as refugee migrations.

Climate Concerns Prompt Some To Go Childfree

Amid such warnings, a growing number of people are refusing to have children. As the New Republic’s Alexis Papazoglou explains, they believe it would be cruel to bring children into a world devastated by poverty, starvation, and war. “What if these children inherit a world that cannot be fixed?” they ask. Others worry that adding to the population could worsen environmental impacts. CNN’s Stephanie Bailey mentions their concerns about the additional carbon emissions from more children. Some child-free people motivated by climate change have formed groups like BirthStrike, citing the current ecological crisis as their motivation. Others simply decide to forgo children on their own to reduce individual impacts on the planet.

Do Children Have an Ecological Impact?

Many factors play into current climate change developments and future consequences. Reducing or stabilizing the population may have long-term effects on several generations after us. However, scientists have concluded that more immediate changes are key to improving outcomes. That means cutting carbon emissions now.

Individual consumption and reduction in carbon emissions play a role, especially in already developed nations such as the United States. For instance, the average American contributes 15.6 metric tons per year. At the same time, corporations produce the lion’s share of CO2 output around the globe. Vox writer Gaby Del Valle points to a 2017 report revealing that 100 companies collectively produce over 70% of greenhouse gasses.

The United Nations estimates that Earth’s population will reach 8.5 billion by 2030, assuming that birth rates remain at current levels. As some eschew having children, others believe that immediate future generations may help improve climate, social, and financial outcomes. They point to Generation Z and tomorrow’s children as sources of hope. Gen Z’s political and social activism may help accomplish real change, while future scientists and engineers could devise technological climate-stabilizing solutions.

Yet as Papazoglou points out in his New Republic piece, all this assumes that people perform extensive cost-benefit analyses before deciding to procreate. Having children is often a more emotional decision, fueled by many possible reasons: wanting happiness, desiring to leave a legacy, or contributing to making a better world.  

Questions With No Easy Answers

The current climate change crisis has spawned many reactions: fear, anger, apathy, and denial. Some eschew having kids, fearing their impact on carbon emissions and quality of life in a post-apocalyptic future. Others see kids as reasons for hope that the worst effects can be averted or we can adapt and survive. No matter what you believe, one thing is clear. We’re at a significant turning point for families, cultures, nations, and humanity as a whole.

Category: Society

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