Explore the 1.5°C Living Targets...

'Whole lifetime' target

Whole lifetime target
Whole lifetime target

The 10 targets we have presented above concern behaviour choices and actions made each year – but there are further choices, made only occasionally during a lifetime, that can have a major effect on your contribution to climate change. These include, for example, a decision to move far from home for work, leading to repeated flights home over the following years to see family and friends. Arguably, however, the decision with the largest impact on the climate is whether to have a child.

Berners-Lee (2020: 157-159) estimates that having one child leads to additional greenhouse gas emissions of between 210 tCO2e and more than 5,000 tCO2e over the lifetime of that child (and more if there are grandchildren). The difference between the upper and lower estimates depends a great deal on whether the child goes on to lead a high or low carbon life, but it is clear there is a high minimum level.

The debate over the environmental impacts of procreation and population are complex – and especially mired in controversy – and we do not have the space to deal with these issues here. However, we do offer one final target for those who wish to consider it:

No more than one child per couple.