Want to fight climate change? Have fewer children

30 10 2018

Most people think that selling your car, avoiding flights and going vegetarian are the best strategies for fighting climate change, but in fact, according to a study into true impacts of different green lifestyle choices, having fewer children beats all those actions by a very long margin…….

I’ve been saying this for years and years, but the graphic below might just about convince anyone……..

The greatest impact individuals can have in fighting climate change is to have one fewer child, according to a new study that identifies the most effective ways people can cut their carbon emissions.

The next best actions are selling your car, avoiding long flights, and eating a vegetarian diet. These reduce emissions many times more than common green activities, such as recycling, using low energy light bulbs or drying washing on a line. However, the high impact actions are rarely mentioned in government advice and school textbooks, researchers found.

Carbon emissions must fall to two tonnes of CO2 per person by 2050 to avoid severe global warming, but in the US and Australia emissions are currently 16 tonnes per person and in the UK seven tonnes. “That’s obviously a really big change and we wanted to show that individuals have an opportunity to be a part of that,” said Kimberly Nicholas, at Lund University in Sweden and one of the research team.

The new study, published in Environmental Research Letters, sets out the impact of different actions on a comparable basis. By far the biggest ultimate impact is having one fewer child, which the researchers calculated equated to a reduction of 58 tonnes of CO2 for each year of a parent’s life.

The figure was calculated by totting up the emissions of the child and all their descendants, then dividing this total by the parent’s lifespan. Each parent was ascribed 50% of the child’s emissions, 25% of their grandchildren’s emissions and so on.

The graphic shows how much CO2 can be saved through a range of different actions.
fewer children

“We recognise these are deeply personal choices. But we can’t ignore the climate effect our lifestyle actually has,” said Nicholas. “It is our job as scientists to honestly report the data. Like a doctor who sees the patient is in poor health and might not like the message ‘smoking is bad for you’, we are forced to confront the fact that current emission levels are really bad for the planet and human society.”

Besides, who in their right mind would want to bring children into this dysfunctional world? Oh wait……  nobody is in their right mind!


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34 responses

30 10 2018
EnergyShifts.net

Mike, Is this not just another excuse for keepin’ on truckin’ (driving)? We would rather give up having children than having to give up driving our cherished cars? Also, WHO is supposed to have fewer children? The countries / regions who have the most, or those who have the fewest?
(families in many/most developed nations already have fewer than 2 on average).

30 10 2018
psile

Exactly, this line of thinking is insane, just more of the colonialist/dominionist mentality that got us into this mess in the first place. Not that it matters now, our goose is cooked, so just whatever floats your boat until the falls suddenly appear.

30 10 2018
EnergyShifts.net

What has this got to do with colonialism? Some countries are overpopulated, some are underpopulated. Some countries are overpopulated with cars and some are underpopulated with cars. Public transport systems are at different levels of development around the world. Key words: carrying capacity; carbon emissions per capita. This debate needs to be much more nuanced.

30 10 2018
psile

It has everything to do with it. The article is insinuating that the main problem is overpopulation, and too many births, which really isn’t a 1st world problem anymore. Where the real problem is overpopulation and over-consumption. The latter of which is spurred by immigration to shore up sagging western birth rates, which is how the developed countries do the most damage environmentally, qualitatively and quantitatively.

30 10 2018
EnergyShifts.net

Are you saying high birth-rates outside of 1st world countries are due to colonialism? Are you saying immigration into 1st world countries from 2nd/3rd world countries are due to colonialism? And this immigration also causes the environmental damage in the 1st World? Misattribution much? “It’s all because of colonialism”. Right.

31 10 2018
mikestasse

Third world overpopuatio is a function of lack of education, and in most cases – not all, because Saudi Arabia is a clear exception – a lack of energy….. when you don’t have the fossil energygrow food in particular, you need lots of hands on deck to do the manual work.

Make no mistake, Saudi Arabia’s overpopulation will be its final demise when it runs of oil. Just like happened in Syria.

Third world countries may not have as many cars as we do, but what I see on TV doesn’r show there’s a shortage of them there either… and in any case, while cars are continually demonised for causing climate change, there are far worse causes like industry and industrial agriculture and all the concrete infrastructure such as that China is building with Australia’s resources….. when you hear China used more cement in 2 or 3 years than the US consumed during the entire 20th century, it all comes down to…… TOO MANY PEOPLE.

31 10 2018
EnergyShifts.net

Mike it’s true that we have too many people world-wide, but on a country to country basis some countries are overpopulated while others are underpopulated. The question is why should underpopulated countries have fewer children, especially if other countries are causing the worldwide overpopulation problem more than they do?

Every country has to become more responsible within their own context. Where some countries need to limit population growth others need to reduce industrial emissions while others yet need to consider expanding public transport infrastructure to reduce excessive car emissions and smog and pollution in cities. (some countries are much more industrial than others, some already have good public transport networks in place, some don’t, etc, etc).

Thinking about this purely in global terms is just going nowhere, because it cannot be dealt with on a global level.

The one area in which individuals (universally, anywhere, everywhere) can make a difference on a personal level (not on a policy or political or corporate level) is in how much or how little they drive their cars (or whether they own one at all), because that causes the highest level of emissions and pollution on an individual, personal level.

In fact…. and of course this is where it becomes it a bit uncomfortable… the onus is (more) on the most industrialized countries that have the largest populations. Basically the top 15 – 20 countries in terms of consumption, pollution and birth rates are mostly responsible for the dire outlook at the moment, because these countries are supposed to take the lead in changing course. However, they are taking the rest of the world into ecocide with them and the rest of the world doesn’t have a say in it.

31 10 2018
EnergyShifts.net

Good points about countries that have economies that rely on energy exports – we just need to look at Venezuela as a real-time example playing off in front of us.

By the same token – even worse hit perhaps – will be countries that rely the most on massive energy imports. Especially if they have overpopulation at the same time.

31 10 2018
psile

Pull your head in mate. What I’m saying is that we in the West spend far too much time looking at hump’s on other people’s backs, as they say, but don’t seem to notice our own.

31 10 2018
EnergyShifts.net

Agreed, mate, That’s not to say the non-West should be exempt though, because as you rightly said earlier on, extreme population-growth is not so much a problem in the West anymore. The problem is also the economic growth-imperative, becuase if say for example Australians and New-Zleanders and Europeams have fewer children, the current economic model demands importing immigrants to make up for the shortfall in workers / laborers, so you end up back at squire one, just with an altered cultural make-up.

31 10 2018
psile

Unfortunately, we’re not going to give up on economic or population growth, even after collapse. Everyone is still clamouring for more, and the few voices of reason are marginalised. At least we’ll only be a menace to ourselves after the crash, and perhaps then just locally. The global empire of consumption however is going down, with all hands.

30 10 2018
mikestasse

Seriously? Reducing your family by just 1 child is 24.4 times more effective than living car free…… and if you had no children instead of just 1….. that would make it almost 50 times as worthwhile!

Obviously, if you have no children at all, that would make you almost entitled to own a car.

30 10 2018
EnergyShifts.net

Mike, I happen to have neither children, nor cars, I live in an underpopulated South American country that has four times more cows than people and that generates around 75% of it’s electricity through wind-farms. (That doesn;t mean I presume to tell people they can’t have children, especially since the families are not very large in the first place). There is a stronger case for having fewer cows than humans over here. Broad brush-strokes of how to deal with these issues are not helpful. The carbon emissions here are quite high though, because people love driving. so locally driving less would be the first thing to do to bring down per capita emissions. We need to become more nuanced in these debates i.m.o if we are serious about debating actual solutions, other than just tripping on doomster prawn.

30 10 2018
Jeff

Mike, will you be now advising your children/grand children not to have children ?

30 10 2018
keithalt

This line of thinking is not insane, but assumes a high degree of collective responsibility. Ideally we should do better than the bacteria in a petri dish and recognise that we have exceeded the ability of the planet to meet out our growing demands. However, global trends give one little reason for optimism.

30 10 2018
I.M. Noman

Australians emit 100 times more carbon per capita than Ugandans.
So having NO children in the developed nations is by far the best strategy.

Ranking of the world’s countries by 2014 per capita fossil-fuel CO2
emission rates:
http://cdiac.ess-dive.lbl.gov/trends/emis/top2014.cap

31 10 2018
lemmiwinks

Wow, touched a nerve there Mike ha ha ha. Have to agree 100% (though I never voice my opinion in real life due to exactly the type of “How dare you?!!?” comments seen here).

The elephant in the room is population and you’re either a part of the problem or not. I’m a part of the problem as I have one (and only one) child. Was never intending to have one but eventually caved to pressure (and then the pressure to have a second was even worse!) I think everyone who wants to should have *one* (though the one child policy didn’t really work out either) as it definitely adjusts your priorities in the best possible way and I love being a parent.

Let’s be clear though, I don’t pretend to have any answers to the issue of overpopulation. I do contend however, that due to human nature, the firm belief that we’re way too smart to fuck it up/technohubris, and the “How dare you tell me/those poor people in developing countries how many children I/they can or can’t have?!!!?” attitude, that we will continue business as usual right up until we can’t.

At that point, like any species of animal that reaches plague proportions (must be getting close?) we’ll die back to sustainable levels. Actually sustainable, not bullshit sustainable like is spruiked by every “green” organisation.

Of course, we (the human race) could have a sensible conversation about stable population and how we could *manage* degrowth, but any rational discussion is quickly derailed by the growth lobby, “greens”, etc etc etc. So degrowth will happen to us instead.

Does anyone recall this great video series by Albert Bartlett? Should be mandatory viewing for everyone on the planet.

Part one:

1 11 2018
EnergyShifts.net

Australia does not have an overpopulation problem. It is vastly underpopulated.

Australia is ranked at number 245 (!) out of 255 countries for population density.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_and_dependencies_by_population_density

Therefore, having one child does not make you part of ‘the problem’ – at least not in the Australian context. Perhaps in the global context, but why should countries with very low population density feel responsible for countries that are unable to keep their population growth in check (for whatever reasons)? It borders on the ridiculous, quite frankly.

The high greenhouse emissions of Australia – one of the highest in the world – despite its very low population density is however another matter altogether.

1 11 2018
lemmiwinks

Did you watch the video series (rhetorical question, clearly you did not).

So to the old “empty land” argument. Please explain, what is the purpose of filling up all our “wasted space” here in Australia? Will this lead to increased biodiversity and quality of life?

1 11 2018
EnergyShifts.net

I’m not advocating for “filling up all the empty space” at all. But why would you prioritize having fewer children over reducing immigration? With the already low birthrates (and with natural death rates) combined with steady emigration numbers out of the country you could regulate population levels without having to have no kids, which will just mean cultural suicide in the end (especially if you don’t regulate immigration). Is this not obvious?

31 10 2018
Bruce Teakle

Thanks Mike, I agree that having fewer children is a great contribution to the future. However I doubt that the other proposed actions in the graph, in themselves, would actually reduce emissions here and now. If I get rid of my car, but sustain the same income, I’ll probably end up with a lot of money in the bank, which I’m likely to spend on something else that has a similar energy footprint: e.g. a trip to Tassie to see Mike, an extension on the house, etc.. The nature of our fossil-run economy is that whatever we spend our money on, it has an energy cost, probably pretty similar per dollar for different expenditures. Getting rid of the car, and dropping a day or 2 per week of employment, would be a much better bet for reducing emissions.

31 10 2018
may hem

australia has the highest birth rate of all the OECD (1st world) countries – its higher than indonesia’s! we also currently import about 400,000 immigrants and students per annum and, of course, they also reproduce. we need a city the size of canberra every year just to accommodate these extra people!

in many third world countries, high birth rates are due to patriarchy (ie no choice for women and often no contraceptives), patriarchal religions, and a lack of government welfare. many people need large families to support them in their old age. all this as well as an economic system based on infinite growth.

check out the facts here ……http://www.population.org.au/

1 11 2018
EnergyShifts.net

The information in your first paragraph is incorrect. Australia has an average birth rate (at 12.1*) for an OECD country, much lower than Indonesia (at 16.2*). Australia has a lower birthrate than the following OECD countries: Norway, France, USA, Turkey, Mexico & Chile. Australia has the same birthrate as Sweden and the UK.

Overall Australia ranks as number 167 in the world for its birthrate (out of 225 countries).

*Birth rate (births/1,000 population)

1 11 2018
EnergyShifts.net

Source for birthrates is here:
https://www.indexmundi.com/g/r.aspx?v=25
[Source: CIA World Factbook – Unless otherwise noted, information in this page is accurate as of January 1, 2018]

Australia does indeed have one of the highest immigration rates in the world as several sources confirm. It’s population growth is therefore very high compared to Sweden and the UK, which fall in the same birthrate category. Australia’s high population growth-rate can therefore be attributed to its high level of immigration not its low-end birthrate.

1 11 2018
may hem

EnergyShifts, you need to revise you figures.
“World Bank data for 2017 show that Australia’s population growth was 1.7% (June 2017) much higher than comparable countries with immigration programs like Canada (1.2%), the UK (0.6%) and the US (0.7%).”

Norway’s birth rate for 2017 was only 0.91 and Indonesia’s only 1.10 – the other countries you mentioned were also below our current birth rate.

The most accurate and up to date site for Australian stats is http://www.abs.gov.au
and for global data https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.POP.GROW

2 11 2018
EnergyShifts.net

Well, who to believe? Can we be sure any of these sources are absolutely reliable? Even if birthrates are higher in Australia the population growth could be tempered through reducing immigration first – what impact does immigration have on increased birthrates? Can it be measured?

2 11 2018
EnergyShifts.net

Furthermore, what impact does immigration have on emissions?

7 11 2018
mikestasse

Probably none, the immigrants we allow in are already high consumers in their country of origin, and the emissions are simply transferred from there to here…….

1 11 2018
EnergyShifts.net

Mike, Australia is the 10th least populated country in the world (!) in terms of surface area / population density [it ranks as #245 out of 255 countries] – it is one of the most underpopulated countries in the world. (it does however have vast dry areas, so its carrying capacity is not as high as the surface area would suggest, nevertheless it is very far from reaching its carrying capacity)

At the same time Australia is listed as #8 for greenhouse gas emissions per capita:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_greenhouse_gas_emissions_per_capita

So, although it has very (VERY) low population density it has very (VERY) high emission levels (per capita).

This does not point to the problem coming from high birthrates. So, I guess the question is, why / how can Australia’s per capita emissions be so high?

1 11 2018
mikestasse

WHY? Effluence my dear Watson…….. the tyranny of distance doesn’t help either. We tend to travel much farther than most other nations precisely because centres tend to be so far apart. I have flown and driven between Queensland and Tasmania far more times than I would like to acknowledge (thankfully, it’s all about to end now, though I now face the task of driving my wife’s tiny car south…)

And it’s precisely because we are so effluent that we should have fewer children, because each child born here consumes maybe 5 times its proper share of resources.

Population density is not the issue anyway, the fact we’ll be unable to feed ourselves in a post oil scenario IS.

1 11 2018
EnergyShifts.net

Not having children is automatically cancelled out by Australia being one of the countries with the highest immigration rates in the world. Not having a child would only have an impact if immigration is stopped, so the graph you have used in this article is highly flawed for reasons I have pointed out.
Even with high immigration (one of the highest in the world – ranked at #12 on Wikipedia) Australia has a very low population density, so the number of people in the country does not reflect why Australia has such high emissions per capita, so what does?

Excerpt 1:
“Transport – cars, trucks, public transport, domestic flights and shipping – is Australia’s third largest source of greenhouse gas emissions (93MtCO2e in 2015, 18% of total emissions).

Transport emissions have the highest rate of growth, and if no action is taken, are projected to keep climbing to double 1990 levels (120 MtCO2e) by 2035.

The major source of the problem is cars, responsible for roughly half of all transport emissions. In fact, Australian cars emit roughly the same per year (43MtCO2e) as Queensland’s entire coal and gas fired electricity supply.”

Source/article:
https://www.climatecouncil.org.au/resources/transport-emissions-and-climate-solutions/

Excerpt 2:
“How does Australia compare on transport emissions?

Australia lags well behind the pack on tackling transport emissions. We have the ninth-highest transport emissions per capita in the world, nearly 50% higher than the OECD average.”

Australia also ranks among the worst for transport energy efficiency due to:
– The lack of greenhouse gas emissions standards in place for cars or heavy vehicles
– Our high emitting cars
– The relatively high distances travelled by car per person, compared to similar countries
– Our low use of public transport (12% of trips)
– And our low ratio of spending on public transport with only 50c spent on public transport for every $1 spent on roads.

1 11 2018
EnergyShifts.net

PS: The Mad Max movies really make sense now.

1 11 2018
EnergyShifts.net

Where do our (Australia’s) emissions come from?

“1. Energy (Electricity)—187.5 Mt CO2-e (or 35% of the total emissions) were produced by fuel combustion to make electricity (on- and off-grid).

2. Energy (Direct combustion)—94.5 Mt CO2-e (18%) were produced by fuel combustion directly used in energy, mining, manufacturing, buildings and primary industries. Direct combustion excludes electricity use and transport.

3. Transport—93 Mt CO2-e (17%) came from fuel combustion used in road, rail, domestic shipping and aviation, off-road recreational vehicles and pipeline transport.”

Source:
http://www.climatechangenews.com/2014/07/18/australian-droughts-caused-by-manmade-emissions/

Although numbers 1 & 2 are out of the hands of the average individual, no. 3 can be reduced through personal choice.

As for reducing number 1, a couple of nuclear plants should do it… (but perhaps that’s a debate for another day).

1 11 2018
EnergyShifts.net

Here is the correct source link for: “Where do our (Australia’s) emissions come from?”

https://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Parliamentary_Departments/Parliamentary_Library/pubs/BriefingBook45p/EmissionsReduction

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