Following the recent release of a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on its dramatic climate change predictions, the news agency APF published a chart from 2017 showing the effects of various actions to reduce human emissions.
— Agence France-Presse (@afpfr) October 8, 2018
The action with the biggest impact, 24 times more impactful than going car free, is having one less child. The figures also show how this varies by country – it has twice the average impact in the US.
In addition, the numbers reveal the effect of migration. If an American child moved to Japan and lived like an average Japanese resident its impact would be reduced by five sixths.
The chart has caused a stir. In a later Tweet APF distanced itself from the chart by citing its source and saying that it is not suggesting readers have fewer children.
In an interview with RTS, Martine Rebetez, a climate professor at the University of Neuchâtel, described the chart as a provocation. According to her having fewer children is not the solution. There is no demographic explosion in Switzerland and those in poor regions emit almost no greenhouse gas. She thinks how we change the way we live is the central question.
Others disagree. The UK based organisation, Population Matters, patronized by David Attenborough, thinks that such an important element cannot be left out of the conversation. Attenborough says “I have no doubt that the fundamental source of all our problems, particularly our environmental problems, is population growth. I can’t think of a single problem that wouldn’t be easier to solve if there were less people.”
Population Matters’ president, Roger Martin, describes the world’s tendency to tiptoe around the subject of population growth as the ‘mad taboo’.
Population Matters says “Current global population growth — approximately 10,000 more per hour — will stop one day, simply because a finite planet cannot sustain an infinite number of people. But it can only stop in one of two ways: either sooner, the humane way, by fewer births — family planning backed by policy to make it available and encourage people to use it — or later, the “natural” way, by more deaths — famine, disease and predation/war. Campaigners against the former are in practice campaigning for the latter. We owe it to our children to prevent this.”
In addition, the organisation says that “This is not just an issue for poor countries. Each person living in a developed country does far more damage to the planet than any poor African; every extra Briton, for instance, has the carbon footprint of 22 more Malawians.”
The late British philosopher Bertrand Russell’s advice for future generations seems pertinent here.