AMAC Exclusive – By Andrew Abbott
Combatting climate change alarmism might not just be about pushing back on bad science and political opportunism. It might also be a battle for the survival of the human species.
According to an analysis from the Federal Reserve Bank of St Louis released last week, “the era of rapid population growth is coming to an end.” By 2100, the report states, the global population is predicted to peak at 10.5 billion before falling precipitously. Under this projection, almost every developed nation will see a significant population decline.
The U.S. population is expected to level off at around 400 million people, and will by surpassed by Nigeria’s population around 2050, according to the data. India is expected to overtake China as the world’s most populous country this year and peak at around 1.7 billion by 2060.
Europe, meanwhile, is estimated to have already reached its population peak – a consequence of rapidly declining fertility rates in recent decades. Even as life expectancy continues to rise, couples are having fewer children.
Historically, population declines throughout the world have been driven by external factors. Things like war, famine, and disease have been what have stopped societies from growing their numbers.
Throughout the West today, however, none of these factors are present. Even with widely available modern healthcare, no active wars outside of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, and relative political and economic stability, people just aren’t having children.
While the reasons behind declining birth rates are unique to each country, one common underlying factor is leftist alarmism about climate change leading to the perverse idea that it is morally wrong to have children.
A Washington Post article from December describes one young woman named Meera Sanghani-Jorgensen feeling “weighed down by the consumption of her children before they were even born.” Jorgensen “couldn’t shake the feeling that, by giving birth, she might be doing something bad for the earth.”
That sentiment has become increasingly common among young people in recent years. In 2021, Morgan Stanley analysts wrote in a letter to investors 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.”
A December 2020 ABC News poll found that 23% of adults ages 18-45 are rethinking having children because of climate change. Another poll from 2020 found similar results.
Hollywood celebrities, mainstream media journalists, and even Democrat politicians, meanwhile, have all fueled the anti-baby fire.
Singer Miley Cyrus, for instance, vowed in 2019 not to have a baby on this “piece of s*** planet.” Ex-British royal Prince Harry, a father of two, has said that having any more children is “irresponsible.”
The New York Times, meanwhile, has openly mused on the question of “To Breed or Not to Breed?” The Atlantic has also speculated on “A World Without Children,” while the London Review of Books plainly asked “Is it OK to have a child?” and an NBC News opinion piece declared “Science proves kids are bad for Earth. Morality suggests we stop having them.”
Progressive darling Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) has waded into the debate as well, saying in 2019 that it is a “legitimate question” to ask whether it is “moral” for people to have children amid climate change concerns.
At least as far back as 2009, academics have also been stoking fears about the supposed “climate impacts” of having children. That year, Oregon State University professors Paul Murtaugh and Michael Schlax concluded in the only original piece of academic research to date on the question that having a child in “a developed country like Russia, the United States, or Japan, would result in approximately 60 metric tons per year in CO2 emissions – an amount roughly equivalent to putting 13 gas-powered cars on the road for a year.” According to the two authors, each year a couple goes without having a child amounts to 24 people living car-free.
The study gained renewed interest when it was repackaged into a literature review in 2017, spawning a new wave of anti-child sentiment. In 2022, in large part motivated by the Oregon State study, two teachers founded a movement called “Birth Strike” which counter-intuitively proclaims that having children is a “crime against humanity.”
However, a Washington Post analysis last year found that, more than a decade later, the 2009 Murtaugh and Schlax paper ultimately made two glaring miscalculations.
First, the authors assumed that a mother and father were each responsible for one-half of the emissions of their future child, one-quarter of their grandchild’s emissions, and so on. Thus, the study assumes parents are at least partially responsible for all climate emissions their family generates, leading to a massive overcalculation of a child’s “carbon footprint.”
Second, the authors also assumed that carbon emissions would never decrease over time – speaking to a greater fatalism about the climate movement generally. Both of these assumptions led the authors to paint a dire portrait of the future.
NYU business professor Scott Galloway has offered an opposing view. He asserts that we will never “shrink” our way out of the challenges we face. Instead, the only way to overcome our global challenges is by having more children and investing in innovation and education. He writes, “The greatest threat to humanity isn’t climate change or thermonuclear war, but nothingness.”
Indeed, the notion that entire countries must simply “give up” and reduce themselves into oblivion to serve the environment is not only wrong but defeatist – the result of telling multiple generations of young people that they’re already doomed.
Instead, cultural and political leaders might be wise to choose a more optimistic message – one that values human and parenthood life as a blessing and a joy, rather than an unbearable burden.
Andrew Abbott is the pen name of a writer and public affairs consultant with over a decade of experience in DC at the intersection of politics and culture.
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