Climate change and kids

The effects of a Christmas tree on the environment. It’s hard not to think about it. Not to feel guilty. But then a newsfeed reminds me of a study* from last year which concluded that the best way to fight climate change is having fewer children or adopting instead of having your own biological child. What?!

Puts my worry over the Christmas tree into perspective. I must admit, I never considered not having kids for the sake of our planet. Worry about what kind of world I’m leaving for my child, yes. But not having a child in order to reduce my carbon footprint – no, the thought never even entered my mind. And had it entered my mind, I think it would have taken me all of half of a second to conclude that for me personally, that would be too much of a sacrifice, one that I wouldn’t be prepared to make.

Yet according to the study, having one less child would save 58.6 tonnes of CO2 emissions per year, compared with for example 2.4 tonnes per year saved if living without a car! Quite a difference.

I actually had to look up what these figures are based on, as I couldn’t quite get my head around them. If I understood correctly, the study adds all CO2 emitted throughout the child’s life, including those emitted by the child’s future (imaginary) children, and so on, and then divides this total figure with the parent’s lifespan. To me it’s a mystery how you can calculate CO2 emissions of a person who doesn’t exist, I mean a lot comes down to circumstance and personal choice, doesn’t it? No? Ok, well, even more of a mystery to me is how one can estimate the number of kids that that non-existent child would go on to have, not to mention how many kids those unknown numbers of non-existent grandchildren would go on to have… and how big all their emissions would be. Especially in the light of future, presumably significant, developments in low-carbon living. I mean, we are making some progress, aren’t we? And anyway, where do you stop, at which generation? No, still can’t get my head around it, but maybe that’s not the point.

I think the point is simply that more kids means more emissions, and so while we’re fiddling around with hybrid cars and washing laundry at low temperatures, we’re apparently not even discussing the one single action that has the biggest climate fighting impact of them all! Why? Maybe because it is just so… big! Too big -basically like something straight out of a science fiction story if you ask me… only problem being that this isn’t fiction but real life!

* The study focuses on sources from Europe, North America and Japan. Here’s a link if you’d like to check it out:


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