No children – they contribute to climate change

A New Zealand-US research project has found concern for the environment is influencing people’s desire to have children.

They say they have chosen the ‘no children’ option because they don’t want to contribute to climate change.

The research resulted in a report co-authored by Lincoln University’s Samantha White, Dr Joya Kemper from the University of Auckland, and the University of Arizona’s Dr Sabrina Helm.

The report: “No future, no kids–no kids, no future? An exploration of motivations to remain childfree in times of climate change,” involved two studies.

The first examined reader comments on articles discussing choosing not to have children in response to climate change.

The other study included semi-structured interviews with people aged between 19 and 35-years-old. The interviews were carried out here and in the US.

“I would say the majority of the interview participants at least said they were not going to have kids, or they were going to look at adoption instead,” White says.

“Some people were going to limit how many they were going to have but still felt guilty about potentially bringing them into a world that is ‘doomed’.

“We found that many young people in our study were experiencing anxiety about what the future would look like as a result of climate change, which led them to questioning whether having kids or not was the right thing to do.”

White says the respondents’ concerns with having children were two-fold.

“Having children was recognised to contribute to climate change through increased emissions and consumption of resources, further exacerbating resource scarcity and environmental degradation,” she says.

“Participants also expressed guilt from potentially subjecting their children and future generations to a world vastly different to the one they have enjoyed themselves.”

Wider implications thrown up by the research suggest mental health issues in relation to climate change are emerging and need attention.

“From our own research, and other studies, it is evident that many people are experiencing severe impacts on their mental health as a result of climate change concerns,” White says.

Deciding not to have children isn’t a lightly made decision, she observes.

In her view, it shows that climate change has much broader effects “beyond just changes in weather and the environment.

“It is clear that many young people in our study are frustrated and resentful at having to consider forgoing having children largely due to perceived government inaction and lack of systemic change in relation to climate issues.”

White says greater action is needed not only to mitigate further contributions to climate change, but also to address the already realised impacts, including those on public mental health.


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News category: New Zealand.

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