If the mean global temperature increases by 4°C then most of our coastal cities will be underwater.
It might not be much water – just enough to get those hems wet – but the whole experience will be unpleasant enough that you’ll probably want to forego a street-level stroll. Fortunately, climate change on that scale won’t occur for another 80 years. Unfortunately, that means it’s our children (and our children’s children) who’ll suffer through it. But don’t worry because one researcher has come up with a simple, if somewhat unpalatable solution: don’t have kids.
Or just don’t have so many. Travis N. Rieder, a bioethicist and philosopher, believes that smaller families are better for the planet in this trying period of massive climate change. There are myriad reasons for this.
“At 4 degrees C warming, the World Bank predicts that every summer month will be hotter than any current record heat wave, making the Middle East, North Africa and the Mediterranean deadly during the summer months,” Rieder told the Conversation.
“Many coastal cities will be completely under water, and all low-lying island nations will likely have to be abandoned.”
At Oregon State University, they’ve calculated how many metric tonnes of carbon dioxide you’ll keep out of the atmosphere in your lifetime by driving a hybrid car, using energy-efficient light bulbs and assassinating a CEO of a petrochemical company (or maybe just the first two). All that hard work saves only 488 metric tonnes. Not very much. BUT if you avoid impulsive actions acts of parenthood, you’ll save 9,441 metric tonnes.
This is great news for the crowd who don’t want to cycle to university or stop eating meat; by simply not reproducing, you’ll be doing more for the planet than 19.3 genuine eco-warriors, or anybody in a Sea Shepherd shirt.
Not having kids is a good way to help the planet, but there are even better reasons to forego the experience of bringing one into the world. In the event that we do not successfully manage our greenhouse gas emissions, you can expect your children to have a significantly decreased quality of life. That’s the other reason Rieder says you shouldn’t have any. In this way, his views line up with those of the anti-natalists: German academic Herman Vetter holds that the individual has a moral obligation to not produce a child if it’s understood that the child will be born into an unhappy world. A world where the global temperature has risen by 4°C would definitely qualify as “unhappy” but would in truth be closer to “downright depressing”.
Having fewer children – or none at all – is also better for other people, and not just in the sense that they won’t get underfoot. There are, at present, millions of orphaned children in need of a home. Wouldn’t it be better to adopt one – almost certainly guaranteeing the child a happier future than the one currently before it – than make another kid that will definitely experience the downside of the industrial revolution?
Of course, we in the prosperous West are less likely to experience the negative effects of climate change. Parts of the world that are already unbalanced, through civil strife or natural disaster, will only get worse with rising tides. While you might be able to provide for your child, it’s now tying up resources that would be better used in regions that are worse off. The World Health Organisation predicts that starting in 2030, 250,000 people will die of causes related to climate change such as malnutrition, malaria, heat stroke. By not having children, you free up some of the resources needed to take care of those people.
Things are getting progressively worse, and we are quickly running out of ways to prevent that. You don’t have to sterilise yourself or anything, but maybe consider stopping at one (1) kid. What’s the point of having more children if they’re just going to resent you for bringing them into a crappy world?
Do the right thing: just have one.