Guest essay by Eric Worrall
h/t JoNova, Marc Morano – Climate philosopher Travis Rieder has been touring the country, trying to persuade university students not to have kids – and promoting ideas for restricting childbirth, including tax penalties against people who decide to have a child.
Should We Be Having Kids In The Age Of Climate Change?
Standing before several dozen students in a college classroom, Travis Rieder tries to convince them not to have children. Or at least not too many.
He’s at James Madison University in southwest Virginia to talk about a “small-family ethic” — to question the assumptions of a society that sees having children as good, throws parties for expecting parents, and in which parents then pressure their kids to “give them grandchildren.”
Why question such assumptions? The prospect of climate catastrophe.
Rieder and his Georgetown collaborators have a proposal, and the first thing they stress is that it’s not like China’s abusive one-child policy. It aims to persuade people to choose fewer children with a strategy that boils down to carrots for the poor, sticks for the rich.
Ethically, Rieder says poor nations get some slack because they’re still developing, and because their per capita emissions are a sliver of the developed world’s. Plus, it just doesn’t look good for rich, Western nations to tell people in poor ones not to have kids. He suggests things like paying poor women to refill their birth control and — something that’s had proven success — widespread media campaigns.
In the 1970s and ’80s, a wave of educational soap operas in Latin America, Asia and Africa wove family planning into their plot lines. Some countries did this when they faced economic crisis. The shows are credited with actually changing people’s opinions about family size.
For the sticks part of the plan, Rieder proposes that richer nations do away with tax breaks for having children and actually penalize new parents. He says the penalty should be progressive, based on income, and could increase with each additional child.
Think of it like a carbon tax, on kids. He knows that sounds crazy.
There is no evidence the world faces a climate apocalypse. All such claims are based on broken climate models which have never demonstrated predictive skill.
But people who act on Rieder’s well meaning but in my opinion scientifically unsound advice may be opening themselves to a lifetime of misery.
The West is full of unhappy couples who waited too long to have a family, thanks to the financial and social pressures of modern life. An entire industry has arisen to try to help desperate couples have a child, many of whom need medical assistance because they are too old to conceive naturally. Adding to the financial and social pressures prospective parents face will exacerbate this tragedy.
When his prophesied doomsday passes uneventfully, Rieder may have the integrity to do what James Lovelock did, and apologise for being wrong. But by then, for most people who listened to and acted upon Rieder’s advice not to have children, it will be too late to undo the harm.