Parents don’t want to see their kids suffer. And for some time, that has been a lens through which we’ve tried to understand the massive problem of global climate change. From the dramatic 2009 documentary Earth 2100 to recent comments by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York), the struggles of future generations are the story of climate change.
“Our planet is going to hit disaster if we don’t turn this ship around … there’s scientific consensus that the lives of children are going to be very difficult,” said Ocasio-Cortez. “And even if you don’t have kids, there are still children here in the world, and we have a moral obligation to leave a better world for them.”
“There’s scientific consensus that the lives of children are going to be very difficult. And it does lead young people to have a legitimate question: is it okay to still have children?”
— Jerry Dunleavy (@JerryDunleavy) February 25, 2019
A new Business Insider poll seems to support Ocasio-Cortez’s assessment. Nearly 30 percent of respondents felt new parents should consider the potential life-threatening effects of climate change in the predictable future when deciding if they ought to have children.
The younger the respondents, the more likely they were to say considering climate change was important in deciding to have kids — 34 percent of Americans between the ages of 30 and 44 agreed and that number climbed to 38 percent below 30 years old.
Meanwhile, the number of Americans who disagreed and the strength of that disagreement climbed with age, with almost half of respondents over 60 saying that climate should not be a consideration new parents make.
Additionally, 11 percent told a New York Times survey that they were not planning to have kids and 33 percent were planning to have fewer children than they might otherwise because of climate change.
These answers might help explain the diminishing birth rate in the United States.
The journal Nature Communications tracked 540 cities’ projected climates in 2080 and compared them to climates of other modern-day cities to create a conceptual framework for the next 50 years of change. For instance, while San Francisco will feel like Los Angeles in 2080, LA will feel like Las Palmas, Mexico. Even more dramatic, Washington, D.C. will feel like Greenwood, Mississippi. Anchorage, Alaska? It’ll be just a bit cooler than Seattle.
There\s even a handy interactive map showing their results.
And that’s just temperature — climate change exacerbates natural disasters as well. Hurricanes, droughts and wildfires are all amplified by changing climate, and we’ve seen their increasing severity in recent years already.
She may have been blasted for it by pundits, but given the data Rep. Ocasio-Cortez was justified in asking: is it okay to still have children when this is the future they face, especially given that more and more young people are asking that same question?
Katelyn Kivel is a contributing editor and senior legal reporter for Grit Post in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Follow her on Twitter @KatelynKivel.