People concerned about climate change want fewer, or no children

Climate change concerns influence people’s decisions to have fewer or no children, with new research suggesting the reasons are more complex than uncertainty about the future.

The systematic review published in PLOS Climate analysed 13 studies involving more than 10,000 participants – from the US, Canada, New Zealand, European and African countries. 

The study, led by University College London researcher Hope Dillarstone finds an association between stronger concern about the climate and the desire to have fewer, or no children, revealing the reasons extend beyond worries about how climate change might impact the lives of children.

Other factors include concerns about the ecological impact of having children, and fears of contributing to overpopulation and overconsumption. Some characterised their choice not to have children as part of a ‘climate strike’.

Two studies in Zambia and Ethiopia connected the desire for fewer children with concerns about meeting subsistence needs given declining agricultural output.

Dillarstone says: “Our analysis shows that not only are many people concerned about their child’s welfare growing up in a world of uncertainty, but that they are also considering the impact of having children on the environment, their family’s ability to subsist, and their politics.

“Understanding why some people choose to adjust their reproductive decisions as a result of climate change may prove instrumental for shaping public policy, showing a need for collaboration among policymakers to incorporate local-level environmental concerns within national and international climate change, mental health and sexual and reproductive health policies,” she says.

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