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A growing number of people are reluctant to bring a child into a world that’s set to be ravaged by climate change in the coming decades.
It comes shortly after the United Nations issued a “code red for humanity” as the world’s leading climate scientists delivered their starkest warning yet about the deepening climate emergency. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s report on Monday said global temperatures are likely to rise by 1.5 degrees Celsius in the next two decades, exceeding a key target of the Paris Agreement — a landmark accord considered critically important to reduce the risk of a climate catastrophe.
Scientists’ increasingly bleak outlook for the future of the planet is putting more and more people off having children.
Analysts at Morgan Stanley said in a note to investors last month that the “movement to not have children owing to fears over climate change is growing and impacting fertility rates quicker than any preceding trend in the field of fertility decline.”
To support their argument, they pointed to surveys, academic research and Google data that shows climate change is directly and indirectly accelerating the decline in fertility rates. UCLA researchers showed that the number of births in the U.S. fell in the nine months after an extreme heat event while a study of 18,000 couples in China last year showed that climate change, and particulate pollution in particular, was associated with a 20% increased likelihood of infertility.
Some people are choosing not to have children because they fear that that doing so will amplify global warming.
“Having a child is 7-times worse for the climate in CO2 emissions annually than the next 10 most discussed mitigants that individuals can do,” analysts at Morgan Stanley said.
A Swedish study, published in IOPscience in 2017, found that having one fewer child per family could save approximately 58.6 metric tons of carbon each year in developed countries.
However, Kimberley Nicholas, one of the study’s authors, said in an interview with Vox this year that reducing the population is not the way to solve the climate crisis. “It is true that more people will consume more resources and cause more greenhouse gas emissions,” she said. “But that’s not really the relevant timeframe for actually stabilizing the climate, given that we have this decade to cut emissions in half.”
Others are concerned about extreme weather events their children may have to endure and the likely knock-on-effects. Crops could fail in some parts of the world, for example.
Daniel, a 35-year-old Brit who currently lives in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, has been married to his partner for almost 12 years. They were open to the idea of having children earlier on in their relationship but now they’re less keen.