More than 95% of Americans aged 27 to 45 surveyed in a recent research study said they were very or extremely concerned about the climate change risk their potential future children will face, and 6% who were already parents felt remorse about having children, according to a mid-November report in the journal Climatic Change.
“While 59.8% of respondents reported being ‘very’ or ‘extremely concerned’ about the carbon footprint of procreation, 96.5% of respondents were ‘very’ or ‘extremely concerned’ about the well-being of their existing, expected, or hypothetical children in a climate-changed world,” the study abstract states, “largely due to an overwhelmingly negative expectation of the future with climate change. Younger respondents were more concerned about the climate impacts their children would experience than older respondents, and there was no statistically significant difference between the eco-reproductive concerns of male and female respondents.”
“The fears about the carbon footprint of having kids tended to be abstract and dry,” study lead Matthew Schneider-Mayerson, an interdisciplinary scholar of environmental studies at Yale-NUS College in Singapore, told The Guardian. “But the fears about the lives of existing or potential children were really deep and emotional. It was often heartbreaking to pore through the responses—a lot of people really poured their hearts out.”
He predicted the proportion of prospective parents who factor the climate crisis into their child-rearing plans is bound to grow, while acknowledging the need for more research to hear from a more diverse, international audience. “The self-selecting group in the study all lived in the U.S. and were largely white, more highly educated, and liberal,” The Guardian writes.
“Climate change is the sole factor for me in deciding not to have biological children,” said one 31-year-old woman among the 607 survey respondents. “I don’t want to birth children into a dying world,” even though “I dearly want to be a mother.”
A 42-year-old father envisioned 2050 as “a hothouse hell, with wars over limited resources, collapsing civilization, failing agriculture, rising seas, melting glaciers, starvation, droughts, floods, mudslides, and widespread devastation.”
“I regret having my kids because I am terrified that they will be facing the end of the world due to climate change,” said one 40-year-old mother.
Schneider-Mayerson called the study findings an “unprecedented window into the way [respondents] are thinking and feeling about what many consider to be the most important decision in their lives.” He told The Guardian that, “to address this, we really need to act immediately to address the root cause, which is climate change itself.”