Family planning: The quick carbon payoff

February 24, 2016 • Daily Email Recap

Family planning: The quick carbon payoff


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In so many realms of national policy, the interests of the entire population must be balanced against the rights of individuals. And so it would seem to be with climate mitigation and family planning-how can nations reduce their carbon dioxide emissions if nothing prevents individuals from having as many babies as they want? But the truth lies deeper than that. Because so many individuals have more babies than they want, providing them the means to plan their families can help nations contain their total carbon emissions.
In Round One, Alex Ezeh wrote that “the greatest culprits in the race to destroy the planet are the countries with the heaviest carbon footprints.” As an American, I admit that my country is guilty as charged. 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-and as of 2008, 60 percent of those pregnancies ended in birth. Under such circumstances, the United States should demonstrate much greater political commitment to family planning-and should make family planning an explicit element of national climate policy. By failing to promote family planning vigorously enough, the United States is both missing a large opportunity in climate mitigation and denying people the ability to make individual decisions about the size of their families.

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