Climate change is becoming a leading reason as to why young people aren’t having kids, a recent study has found.
Researchers at The University of Arizona have found that many young people aged 18-35 are considering adoption as a more ‘responsible’ alternative to having children.
The study, which was conducted by analysing readers comments on articles discussing going childfree in response to climate change, plus interviews with 24 young people, highlighted three main concerns; overconsumption, overpopulation and uncertainty about the future.
Almost all participants surveyed said they worried that having children would contribute to climate change, as more children mean an increased carbon footprint and greater use of resources such as food and water.
Some also said they felt having more than two children is problematic and selfish, and that adoption is a more responsible choice.
‘Adoption was seen as the low-carbon alternative,’ Sabrina Helm, one of the researchers of the paper, No future, no kids – no kids, no future?, said.
‘For many people, the question of whether to have children or not is one of the biggest they will face in their lives. If you are worried about what the future will look like because of climate change, obviously it will impact how you view this very important decision in your life,’ she added.
The third common theme among young people was the fear of what the future of the planet could look like.
Some said they felt a certain level of guilt about bringing a new child into the world when it faces so much uncertainty and climate change is on the rise. However, others said they believe the younger generation will likely care more about the health of the planet and could provide hope.
‘There was a hope that future generations will get the job done and makes things better. But that puts a lot of burden on small children,’ Helm said.
One 2009 study, Reproduction and the carbon legacies of individuals, carried out by researchers at the Oregon State University, determined that the ‘carbon legacy’ of one child can produce 20 times more greenhouse gas than a person will save by adopting a low-emissions lifestyle.
It found that for every parent, a child adds 9,441 metric tons of carbon dioxide to their carbon footprint.
‘Clearly, the potential savings from reduced reproduction are huge compared to the savings that can be achieved by changes in lifestyle,’ the study said.
One of its authors, Paul Murtaugh, told the Center for Biological Diversity: ‘In discussions about climate change, we tend to focus on the carbon emissions of an individual over his or her lifetime. Those are important issues and it’s essential that they should be considered.
‘But an added challenge facing us is continuing population growth and increasing global consumption of resources. Future growth amplifies the consequences of people’s reproductive choices today, the same way that compound interest amplifies a bank balance,’ he added.
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CreditsThe University of Arizona
The University of Arizona