Marketplace Scratch Pad

Blame the children

Scott Jagow Aug 4, 2009

Trading in your clunker, recycling, using energy-efficient lightbulbs. A new study says these are small potatoes when it comes to reducing carbon footprints. What really adds to greenhouse gases is having kids.

From LiveScience:

A study by statisticians at Oregon State University concluded that in the United States, the carbon legacy and greenhouse gas impact of an extra child is almost 20 times more important than some of the other environment-friendly practices people might employ during their entire lives — things like driving a high mileage car, recycling, or using energy-efficient appliances and light bulbs…

The impact of having children differs between countries. While some developing nations have much higher populations and rates of population growth than the United States, their overall impact on the global carbon equation is often reduced by shorter life spans and less consumption. The long-term impact of a child born to a family in China is less than one-fifth the impact of a child born in the United States, the study found.

The study’s authors say they aren’t advocating any sort of policy. They “simply want to make people aware of the environmental consequences of their reproductive choices.”

Of course, this may not be an issue at all, considering that the US population is getting considerably older and other countries like Germany and China face the issue of not having enough younger workers.

LiveScience is also taking a poll on this: Should people have fewer kids to help save the planet? Here are the choices:

Absolutely. Small families are responsible, big families are wasteful.

A moderate approach to this issue makes sense. Use your head and make your own decisions.

Are you people crazy? It’s asinine to even discuss this sort of family planning.

As you might expect, the 1st and 3rd choices are overwhelmingly dominating the answers.

What’s your answer?

We’re here to help you navigate this changed world and economy.

Our mission at Marketplace is to raise the economic intelligence of the country. It’s a tough task, but it’s never been more important.

In the past year, we’ve seen record unemployment, stimulus bills, and reddit users influencing the stock market. Marketplace helps you understand it all, will fact-based, approachable, and unbiased reporting.

Generous support from listeners and readers is what powers our nonprofit news—and your donation today will help provide this essential service. For just $5/month, you can sustain independent journalism that keeps you and thousands of others informed.