Children come with a high carbon cost

15 March 2009

We can now add having children to the long list of things that lunatic Ecoists are declaring have a high carbon footprint.

WHAT is your carbon legacy - not the emissions you are personally liable for, but those of your descendants? Ask Paul Murtaugh, a statistician at Oregon State University in Corvallis.

If you have a child, he says, you and you partner are each responsible for half its emissions. If that child has kids, one-quarter of their emissions are down to you, and so on. How it adds up depends on population trends and emission changes in the future.

Murtaugh used UN population projections, which say that after 2050, birth rates in all countries will be 1.85 children per woman, on average. Then he took three emissions futures: rising business-as-usual emissions, constant emissions, and "save-the-planet" levels that fall to half a tonne of CO2 per capita per year by 2100.

With rising future emissions, each extra child in the US would eventually result in eight times the lifetime carbon footprint of the average US resident today. Even with constant per-capita emissions, it's nearly six times - or nearly 10,000 tonnes of CO2.

In the shrinking-emissions scenario, the US legacy per child would only be about 500 tonnes, roughly one-third of current lifetime emissions.