The population question
Those advances also explain why population growth has slowed. According to the latest United Nations estimates, there will be 10.4 billion of us by 2100 and not 11 billion, as had been projected in 2019.
Girls’ education matters.
Girls’ education is often cited as one of the most effective ways to address climate change. That’s because expanding the rights of women, including access to schooling and family planning services, delays childbearing and enables women to decide for themselves whether to have children, at what age, and how many.
Project Drawdown, a research group that examines ways to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, looked at the climate effects of two scenarios: one in which investments are made in universal education and voluntary family planning, and one without. It found that “as fertility levels change due in part to increased uptake of voluntary family planning and rising education levels, population growth slows, with cascading benefits for the health and well-being of people and the planet.”
Note the “voluntary.”
History is littered with population control horrors.
China’s one-child policy lasted 40 years and haunted millions of families. India forcibly sterilized men during 20 months of emergency rule from 1975-77. The United States admitted to the forced sterilization of Native American women in the 1970s.
In 2100, can 10.4 billion people live healthy lives without destroying Earth’s atmosphere? That’s the test. The consumption habits of a few of us are what count the most. Also, as a practical matter, that’s easier to fix than to go around telling people whether and how many children to bear.
Raising children is a deeply personal matter. It can make you think hard about what kind of world you want to leave behind.
Adam Levy, the climate journalist, put it best on a YouTube video he posted this week after meeting his newborn niece. “There’s something about new life in the present,” he said, “which makes you reflect on the past and the future like nothing else can.”