The piece is titled “Your Kids Are Not Doomed” and that really does sum up the content. Ezra Klein makes a sustained case for a moderate level of optimism about the future of the planet even in light of concerns about climate change. It’s basically a call to put things in a little healthy perspective.
…one thing I’ve noticed, after years of reporting on climate change: The people who have devoted their lives to combating climate change keep having children. I hear them playing in the background of our calls. I see them when we Zoom. And so I began asking them why.
“I unequivocally reject, scientifically and personally, the notion that children are somehow doomed to an unhappy life,” Kate Marvel, a climate scientist at Columbia, told me…
As Dylan Matthews writes at Vox:
What today we’d characterize as extreme poverty was until a few centuries ago the condition of almost every human on earth. In 1820, some 94 percent of humans lived on less than $2 a day. Over the next two centuries, extreme poverty fell dramatically; in 2018, the World Bank estimated that 8.6 percent of people lived on less than $1.90 a day. And the gains were not solely economic. Before 1800, average life spans didn’t exceed 40 years anywhere in the world. Today, the average human life expectancy is more like 73.
No mainstream climate models suggest a return to a world as bad as the one we had in 1950, to say nothing of 1150. Was the world so bad, for virtually the entirety of human history, that our ancestors shouldn’t have made our lives possible? If not, then nothing in our near future looks so horrible that it turns reproduction into an immoral act.
Klein also points to some evidence that some changes are happening faster than we might expect. For instance, the price of solar panels:
One of the truly thrilling papers I’ve read in recent years carried the plodding title “Empirically Grounded Technology Forecasts and the Energy Transition.” The authors looked at more than 2,900 forecasts for how fast the cost of installing solar power would fall from 2010 to 2020. The average prediction was 2.6 percent annually. No prediction was above 6 percent. But solar power costs actually fell by 15 percent per year. Other technologies have seen similar drops in costs. If these curves hold in the future — and they could well steepen if backed by better policy — then we are, even now, underestimating the possible path of progress.
If the only future climate activists can envision is one without children then that’s a future most people will reject.
The green future has to be a welcoming one, even a thrilling one. If people cannot see themselves in it, they will fight to stop it. If the cost of caring about climate is to forgo having a family, that cost will be too high.
'Iron Man' Elon Musk isn’t mentioned in this piece but Klein is sort of cribbing his material. Musk has argued recently that people need a reason to be hopeful about the future. He has also argued that population decline is a bigger threat than population growth, but Klein doesn’t go that far. In any case, the NY Times’ commenters are telling Klein (who has kids) that he’s being terribly irresponsible and cruel to argue for the perpetuation of the species.
I’ve been writing about climate for decades…me, McKibben and a handful of others, and reject the premise advanced by the people you quote as utter madness. Having children is an act of hope FOR THE PARENTS, and the kids, recently born and yet unborn, will pay an unconscionable price for our terminal uniqueness…far from being an act of hope, bringing children into this world today is an act of cruelty paid forward by people who will be long gone. This piece is irresponsible in the most selfish of ways…
The fastest way to reduce CO2 emissions is to reduce the world’s population. Any other conclusion is just sticking your head in the sand and hoping for the best. Eliminate one person in the US and poof ~1,125 tons of CO2, gone. And that’s just the one person, if they aren’t here they can’t produce babies either. . .
Ezra, Ezra, Ezra.
This piece reads as a well-written attempt at rationalizing your way out of the guilt of being one of the most privileged procreators on earth.
The question “is it moral for me to have children?” is not the same thing as “if I have children will they be happy?”. This article seems to only address the latter and in surprisingly selfish ways that unfortunately comes across as a trite rationalization to what is a serious question for many people.
This person is betting on a Mad Max future within a few decades.
This is the worst column I’ve ever read of yours. I worked 8 years at a Climate research facility and people were taking bets on how long civilization would last, and it was measured in single decades. Look at food prices now, when a single country (Ukraine) is having trouble with wheat exports. Imagine huge portions of our Midwest or South America where they can’t grow food. When hundreds of millions, or even billions of people start migrating to find a place they can survive as their countries are devastated by floods and droughts, the people will turn to the strongarm fascists that will promise to “save their country”. Then the regional wars will break out over the last remaining resources. Look at a graph of CO2 levels and you won’t even see the slightest pause as we surpass temperatures not seen in a couple million years. It’s already too late to save NYC, MIAMI and dozens like them around the world. You are so far off base on this, you really should retract the column.
“something that needs to be actively discouraged”
The question is not whether or not the kids will be happy.
The question is whether it’s a good idea in any way to add more humans to the planet’s already-excessive human population.
It is downright irresponsible to promote baby-making nowadays. Why would anyone encourage people who are rightly in doubt to do something that needs to be actively discouraged?
Anyway, you get the idea. Klein clearly hit a nerve with this one. There are a lot of climate activists out there who are very much against having children because they assume we’re already doomed. But I think Klein is right that this is a) not warranted and b) guaranteed to lead to a lot of people rejecting that vision of the future.
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Author: Hot Air
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