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Climate change has many Americans reconsidering having children: POLL


(NEW YORK) — At a time when the present-day impacts of climate change are unavoidable, millions of Americans are reevaluating whether they want to have children, according to a new ABC News/Ipsos poll.

According to the new poll conducted using Ipsos’ KnowledgePanel, nearly a quarter of U.S. adults ages 18 to 45 (23%) say that climate change has made them reconsider having a biological child.

A quarter say that climate change has made them consider having fewer children, and 12% say it has made them consider adoption instead of having a biological child.

Justine Gelbolinga and Armando Alvarez, of Kansas City, Missouri, are one such couple.

In an interview with ABC News, the couple discussed how living in an age of sea level rise, increasingly frequent natural disasters and global warming has impacted how they think about their future family.

“It takes a lot of serious consideration,” Alvarez said. “It seems like it pushes all the plans aside.”

The couple said they are considering how many children they want to have, whether they will adopt children and where the family will live.

“It just felt like when we were trying to find a place to live, we were just X-ing out a bunch of places on a map that we couldn’t go to,” said Gelbolinga. “Or we felt like we weren’t comfortable in.”

Alvarez specifically mentioned threats of flooding, wildfires and hurricanes across the country as factors impacting where the couple would want to live.

The latest IPCC report, published in February, found that climate change will affect nearly every aspect of life on Earth.

The report observed that “widespread, pervasive impacts to ecosystems, people, settlements and infrastructure have resulted from observed increases in the frequency and intensity of climate and weather extremes.”

These extremes include “hot extremes on land and in the ocean,” the report states, “heavy precipitation events, drought and fire weather.”

Miley Cyrus and Prince Harry are among the celebrities who have made public statements about how the reality of climate change has impacted their family planning.

“Until I feel like my kid would live on an Earth with fish in the water, I’m not bringing in another person to deal with that,” Cyrus told Elle Magazine in a 2019 interview.

In an interview he conducted last year with primatologist Jane Goodall in British Vogue, Prince Harry said on the subject of having children in an era climate change: “Two, maximum!”

“I’ve always thought: this place is borrowed,” he added. “And, surely, being as intelligent as we all are, or as evolved as we all are supposed to be, we should be able to leave something better behind for the next generation.”

Researchers who conducted one study, published in 2017, estimated that the carbon impact of having one less child is equivalent to roughly 24 people giving up their cars.

For Kimberly Nicholas, a scientist studying sustainability at Lund University in Sweden and one of the authors of the study, the subject is sensitive.

“It’s a fundamental human right for people to decide freely for themselves if and when and whether they want to try to have a child,” she told ABC News.

“Yes, having a child creates more emissions,” she said, but “it also can create really powerful incentives for engaging in climate action.”

If the world is able to reduce global carbon emissions to net zero by 2050, children born today will emit 10 times less carbon during their lifetimes than their grandparents, a recent International Energy Agency analysis found.

“It’s hard not to be upset that we are in this position without a choice,” Alvarez told ABC News. “But I think it’s also kind of a challenge and almost like an honor.”

“We are going to be the people who decide whether humanity either figures out this huge problem of working in tune with nature or getting destroyed by it,” he said.

This ABC News/Ipsos poll was conducted using Ipsos Public Affairs’ KnowledgePanel® November 14-16, 2022, in English and Spanish, among a random national sample of 1,328 adults ages 18-45. Results have a margin of sampling error of 3.0 points, including the design effect. See the poll’s topline results and details on the methodology here.

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