Stop having children! Planet Earth will benefit from smaller families, researchers say
Researchers from Sweden's Lund University identified four ways that people can reduce their carbon footprints, with the most powerful one being to simply have smaller families.
If families were to have one fewer child, it would save an average of 58.6 tons of CO2-equivalent emission reductions per year, according to the report.
“A US family who chooses to have one fewer child would provide the same level of emissions reductions as 684 teenagers who choose to adopt comprehensive recycling for the rest of their lives,” it states.
While that method was the one that carries the most impact, the researchers also suggested three other ways for people to reduce their carbon footprints – eating a plant-based diet, avoiding air travel and living car-free.
The researchers said that not having a car saves about 2.4 tons of CO2 equivalent per year, while avoiding plane travel saves about 1.6 tons of CO2 equivalent per trip. Ditching meat for plants saves 0.8 tons per year.
The researchers determined the four steps after an analysis of 39 peer-reviewed papers, carbon calculators, and government reports which calculate how individual lifestyle choices may help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The scientists then looked at whether governments were adequately promoting effective ways to curb pollution. They studied 10 Canadian high school textbooks, as well as government communications in the US, Australia and Europe, and found they were focused on “incremental changes with a much smaller potential to reduce emissions.”
Promoting their own suggestions, the researchers said those actions are much more beneficial to the planet than commonly promoted strategies such as comprehensive recycling (one-quarter as effective as a plant-based diet) or changing household lightbulbs (one-eighth the amount).
Not a single Canadian textbook studied by the researchers suggested having fewer children, despite that being the most eco-friendly action, according to the researchers.
“There are so many factors that affect the climate impact of personal choices, but bringing all these studies side-by-side gives us confidence we’ve identified actions that make a big difference,” lead author Seth Wynes told AFP.
“Those of us who want to step forward on climate need to know how our actions can have the greatest possible impact.”
The report, published Wednesday in the journal Environmental Research Letters, comes just one day after French President Emmanuel Macron landed in hot water for saying that one of Africa's main problems was that most women had seven to eight children, prompting his critics to take to social media.