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Mother and child

Put Family Planning Atop CO2 Reduction List

I’m delighted to relaunch Growth Bias Busted with a nod to exemplary thought and writing about the important role of population reduction in decreasing carbon emissions. Alisha Graves offers real gems in Family Planning: The Quick Carbon Payoff.

This piece in Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists is part of a series of commentaries debating the link between emissions and population. You might find the entire series of interest.

Graves’ piece caught my attention because she asks a very important, and virtually never asked question:

“…how can nations reduce their carbon dioxide emissions if nothing prevents individuals from having as many babies as they want?”

That’s a provocative question, but Graves offers a nice twist:

“In 2011 (the most recent year for which World Bank figures are available), per capita carbon dioxide emissions in the United States were 17 metric tons. That is more than double the global per capita average. Meanwhile, about half of the pregnancies in the United States are unintended….”

Get the picture? People have a hard time wrapping their heads around the idea of suggesting people conceive fewer children on an overpopulated planet. But Alisha Graves gently wades into these waters with the idea of at least starting with giving women every opportunity to freely choose to avoid getting pregnant! But here is the deal-clincher:

“…if contraception prevents an unintended pregnancy today, the world will have one fewer carbon emitter in just 40 weeks’ time—about the length of a full-term pregnancy.”

Think about it. It’s quick. It’s painless. It saves everyone a lot of money. It’s a sure thing. And that is a lot less carbon in the atmosphere (beats downsizing your house, replacing your car with a bike, and replacing all your incandescent light bulbs). Note: the title of this post came from me, not Ms. Graves. I don’t know that she’d put contraception ahead of closing coal plants.

The brilliance of this piece made me wonder, who is Alisha Graves? Just one of her impressive activities is as a research fellow for Project Drawdown, which stunned me by including “limiting population growth” as part of its plan to get greenhouse gases on a year-to-year decline.

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Dave Gardner

Producer of the documentary, GrowthBusters: Hooked on Growth. Dave writes and speaks regularly on the subject of growth addiction, including the pro-growth media bias that perpetuates prosperity-from-growth mythology.

Comments (1)

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    Brian Sanderson


    Dave, Thank you for bringing this to my attention. It is good to see the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists is giving population some attention. I was somewhat taken aback when I read the unfair comments that some guy called Andre Balsa had made towards Alisha. Needless to say, I firmly clenched my tongue between my teeth and responded as politely as I know how.


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