I have two friends who recently had their second daughter.
I am confused.
§1. The scientific article is titled “The climate mitigation gap: education and government recommendations miss the most effective individual actions“. Here are some of the media stories covering the article:
- Want To Slow Global Warming? Researchers Say Answer May Lie In Family Planning
- Klima-Studie: Warum Babys die größten Klima-Killer sind [Klima-Killer???]
- Ter menos filhos é a acção mais eficaz contra o aquecimento global
- 20 BMW schädigen das Klima weniger als ein Baby [in effect, saying it’s better to buy 20 BMWs than having a child]
- This could be the best way to fight climate change, but you might not like it
- Fewer babies could be better for the environment
- Have one fewer child if you want to fight climate change, study says
I have a few more brilliant ideas on this.
§2. First of all, if having one fewer child saves me emissions, then how about I declare that I consider having 5 babies, then demand compensation (carbon credits!) for not having them? Can I buy my way to the so much desired BMW? (Actually, 20×5=100 of them, isn’t it?)
§3. But more importantly, the items in the list are considered to be “personal choice”, but the science of the article actually never refers to this. I mean, if I myself stop using a car, or if I simply utilize any car as part of the barricades during an anti-G20 protest, the result is the same, I still avoid 1-2 tonnes of CO2 emissions, right? They are not exactly my emissions, but if I can cut them, why not? (Fine, I just have to make sure I burn the car of someone poor enough so that s/he couldn’t simply replace it.)
§4. Even more relevant is that these are personal choices after the fact. The so-called “high impact choices” are, and I am quoting, “live car free”, “avoid one transatlantic flight”, “buy green energy”, “buy more efficient car” etc. This means, if you want to make the biggest cuts in emissions, the first step is to be rich enough to have a transatlantic flight you can cancel. Marvellous news.
§5. Finally, the article is about “educational programmes”. So it’s really about what we should tell other people to do. We are supposed to show this graph to people around us:
What does “have one fewer child” mean? This does not have to be strictly limited to talking people out of having a new child. From a strictly scientific perspective, the article is also telling people to kill their own children, or better, kill all children. (Read the German article about babies being climate-killers. Death to the climate-killers! (?) )
And I mean, the article is correct in its own fashion: if there are no humans, then there is no human-caused climate change. Problem solved.
§6. I am confused.
I haven’t met my friends’ second daughter yet. But I have some little “flirts” with the older one (by flirt I mean the 3-year-old saying my name and me saying her name, in loop… not very cute for others present, but we have our own ways.).
Is the newcomer just another consumer? Just another “greenhouse gas emitter”? A climate killer?
Is it scientifically irrelevant that she could be our long-awaited union leader who reinvents the labour movement? Is it invisible to the emissions accountant that she could be inspiring thousands into acts of civil disobedience for climate justice?
(Just wondering, kid, not putting my own responsibilities onto your shoulders, don’t worry…)
§7. We have to stop the accountants. Immediately. The problem is not with the numbers, but with the system. And this is super-easy to see: In any part of the “developed” world, it is technically impossible for any person to remain below the sustainable emissions threshold via individual choices. Something bigger, much bigger, has to change.
If she would get slightly politicized, she could earn huge “negative emissions” in the accountants’ papers by winning a fight for public transport. If the accountants would get slightly politicized, we would find out what the “government recommendations” actually “miss”.
“The most effective individual actions” are when you get involved and take collective action.
Stop the accountants. Let’s talk politics.
A calmer and better articulated analysis of the article and its various interpretations can be found here: The best way to reduce your personal carbon emissions: don’t be rich
My “accounting” for activism versus individual solutions, here: Activism: It’s better than dying. I basically calculated that, to remain within the sustainable per capita emission budget, you would have to commit suicide. I also calculated that direct actions are even more effective than that.