Blog Update!
For those of you not following me on Facebook, as of the Summer of 2019 I've moved to Central WA, to a tiny mountain town of less than 1,000 people.

I will be covering my exploits here in the Cascades, as I try to further reduce my impact on the environment. With the same attitude, just at a higher altitude!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Contraception and carbon emissions

I ran across this article yesterday and thought it was an interesting idea and, since we've discussed the link between population control and environmental impact, I thought I'd share it with you guys.

In this article on CNET, Should contraception qualify for carbon funds?, the argument is based on the theory that, according to a study by the London School of Economics, providing contraception would be the cheapest and most effective way to reduce carbon emissions worldwide between 2010 and 2050.
The report, "Fewer Emitters, Lower Emissions, Less Cost," determined that if contraception was made widely available between 2010 and 2050 to women and men around the world who wished to use it, the reduction in unwanted births could result in saving 34 gigatonnes (one billion tonnes) of carbon emissions. That's roughly 60 years worth of U.K. emissions or 6 years worth of U.S. emissions.

The cost for supplying, and distributing contraception over those 40 years would cost an estimated $220 billion, or $7 for each tonne of carbon emissions avoided. It's cheaper than the next most efficient low-carbon technology, wind power, which would cost $24 per tonne or $1 trillion to prevent the same amount (one billion tonnes) of carbon emissions from being produced, according to the report.

In its per-tonne cost analysis, the report also calculated $51 for solar, $57 to $83 for coal plants with carbon capture and storage, $92 for plug-in hybrid vehicles, and $131 for electric vehicles.

The contraception as carbon reduction conclusion was based on United Nations statistics that 40 percent of worldwide pregnancies are unintentional. If contraception was made available to people who wanted it, those unintentional births could be reduced by as much as 72 percent. Between 2010 and 2050, that would result in curbing the world population growth by half a billion people, according to the UN statistics.

That is a conservative estimate, according to the report, since the UN figures are based solely on the lack of contraception access for married couples, and did not include unintended pregnancy statistics for unmarried women.

So, what do you think? Should we focus more on population prevention or is it too hot a topic? It's certainly easier to discuss solar arrays and windfarms without too much of a moral quandary, although some could argue the impact on wildlife.

Would you like to see public funds going to better pregnancy prevention both in the U.S. and assistance abroad?

To read the rest of the article, you can check it out here.


Aimee said...

We must focus on population, but we don't have to use any kind of coercion or even incentives whatsoever. History shows that wherever and whenever contraception is effective, safe, and cheap - and available to WOMEN - women overwhelmingly choose to have fewer children. Whatever money the plan would use toward regulating carbon would probably be better spent simply giving away contraception. I have no doubt that making safe, inexpensive forms of birth control available globally would do more than anything else we could do to curb global warming and many other severe issues: fresh water supplies, deforestation, species extinctions, etc.

Full disclosure: I have three kids. But I'm done.

organicneedle said...

Not only is it a great idea in terms of its environmental impact, but on just about every human rights and quality of life front as well. It allows women the most important form of control over their lives. Without birth control and education for woman, the 3rd world will remain the 3rd world and environmental concerns will be on the back burner for those populations.

As far as it being a hot button issue, nothing was mentioned about MANDATORY birth control, just access to prevent UNWANTED pregnancies.

Farmer's Daughter said...

It makes sense, but you really need to look at the whole picture. (Disclaimer: I've taught about population issues for the last five years. I'm also currently pregnant with my first child.)

In my opinion, the biggest factor in reducing the fertility rate is empowerment of women. This means that women have an education (even up to 8th grade makes a huge difference), have job skills, are allowed to work, and are treated fairly. Access to contraception is part and parcel with women's empowerment. This all leads to women waiting longer to have children and spacing children further apart, which reduce the overall number of children that families have.

To use myself as an example: I'm 28 years old with a MS and a good job, and pregnant with my first child. One of my grandmothers, at age 28, had an 11th grade education and had already had her 5 children. (Don't get me wrong, 11th grade education gave her a lot of opportunities not afforded to women in the developing world, but that's the specific information in this example).

Jordan said...

As organicneedle pointed out, I think the key phrase in the article is "people who want[ed] it." Distributing contraception to those who want it is only a moral quandary for those who think it's immoral, for example, some segments of the Catholic Church. (As a Protestant, I can see that viewpoint, but it's not my viewpoint.)

I think there is a slippery slope towards mandatory population control, but as the article points out, just curbing unplanned conceptions would have a big impact.

Greenpa said...

The statistics are being presented by the study in a slightly slippery way- it's not like if we spend money on contraception, the world will then NOT install the same dollar value of windmills-

Anyway- it's a good idea.

Contraception is always a noisy discussion- but it's one we must have, and this voluntary direction is a very good one.

Anonymous said...

Would the Dugan family be a Natural Disaster??

Anonymous said...

that's Duggar family

Mike Ginn said...

I think it is a good idea. As others have pointed out it will require education. Sex education in schools always brews controversy and may prove to be difficult.

As a practicing Catholic I can see some segments of the Church calling it immoral. However, allowing our world to wither away would be greater immoral.

Unknown said...

I think people should have access to birth control and permanent birth control (for both men and women) free or low cost.

Laura said...

I think it's a great idea. Make reversible and non reversible birth control available to both men and women of all income levels (not only those below the poverty line). Don't go around shooting chicks up with Depo who don't want it. And I think you have a winner.

Anonymous said...

I think that distributing contraception to those who want it is a good idea. And not just for environmental reasons, but for social and political ones as well.

Of course, I have no problem with contraception in general, though. In fact, I am very glad to have access to it myself, and so that shapes my views.

Robj98168 said...

LOL I thought you were gonna send me a check for not impregnating a female. snort
That being said, I am sure that post going to open another pandora's box. But in reality I am sure both my grandmothers would have like it- one having 8 children the other having 10. But I think I am leaning towards Aimee's thoughts and must say I agree with her.
Full Disclosure- I have made no babies or have any desire to.

knutty knitter said...

Really good idea...should be acted on immediately!

viv in nz

laural said...

I think that making contraception readily available and cheap to everyone in the world would be wonderful. But I think that Farmer's Daughter is correct in that empowerment and education of women is going to be the key. It's only when women are empowered that they feel comfortable throwing off any cultural pressures to avoid birth control.

Rosa said...

The thing about empowerment and available contraceptives is that they go together - giving contraceptive power to women and girls empowers them, and women with more options (school, income, status) are more likely to use whatever contraceptives they have available.

The reason this is a hot-button issue is because goverments have and do use forced contraceptive use, forced abortion, and forced child abandonment as a way to get fewer kids without empowering women, and churches and other groups have used forced childbearing to do the same thing.

Eliza said...

Wow, that certainly a progressive and interesting idea. I can't wait to follow this story.
I think it's so important without even considering the environmental impacts. The decision to have or not have a child should belong to everyone. Add in the benefit of fewer carbon emissions and this could really work.

jewishfarmer said...

The major issue here is to make birth control and permanent sterilization accessible, without being coercive about it; and to simultaneously make women able to have fewer children.

What does that last point mean? Well, worldwide, birth control is responsible for about 15% of population limitation - the rest is a product of women's empowerment (no point in providing contraception if a woman is beaten for using it, or in a society where rape is condoned and normal) and *security* (ie, no point in providing it if a woman has to have five kids to get two to survive to adulthood, or if there is no way for an older woman to support herself without lots of kids to care for her in her old age).

The problem with the article and its analysis is that it only covers one end of the problem - contraception. The other end, the much, much more important end, is improving women's lives so they both can use contraception and so they can want fewer children.

Anonymous said...

Limiting population growth will either be done by us to save our earth OR to us by our earth...I hate to be half-empty on this, but my money is on the latter.