How preventing unwanted pregnancies can help on climate

By | July 24, 2022

Robert N. Proctor and Londa Schiebinger write:

Every year, some 36 billion tons of anthropogenic carbon enter the atmosphere, mainly as a result of burning fossil fuels. With 8 billion people on Earth, this means that each human adds an average of 4.5 tons of carbon into the air annually. And wealthy people have a far bigger footprint than the poor — by a couple orders of magnitude.

Too often ignored in devising solutions to slow global warming is the fact that a sizeable number of pregnancies are unintended, and many of the resulting births are unwanted. According to the Guttmacher Institute, as many as 121 million pregnancies each year are unintended, and an estimated 10 percent of all births are “unwanted,” a consequence of either sexual assault or some other form of coercive conception, including the unavailability of effective birth control or abortion.

By one recent estimate, some 270 million women of childbearing age have an unmet need for modern contraception. Avoiding unwanted births — by making contraception and abortion freely available globally — would significantly reduce births and therefore (over the long term) human-generated carbon emissions. If the world’s total population were eventually reduced by 10 percent, this would reduce carbon emissions by 3.6 billion tons per year, which is more than the total combined emissions of Germany, Japan, Brazil, Turkey, Mexico, and Australia.

What is remarkable, however, is how little this has been considered by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the world’s leading body of scholars assessing the science of global warming and possible solutions. In report after report — from the 1992 Framework Convention on Climate Change to the latest working groups findings — the IPCC makes little or no mention of contraception, abortion, or family planning. [Continue reading…]

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