Young people choosing not to have kids due to climate change - research

New research shows young people are concerned about having children because of climate change. 

The research explored motivations to remain childfree in times of climate change and was co-authored by Lincoln University’s Samantha White, Dr Joya Kemper from the University of Auckland, and the University of Arizona’s Dr Sabrina Helm.

It involved two studies, one which consisted of analysis of reader comments on articles discussing going childfree in response to climate change, and the other involved semi-structured interviews conducted in New Zealand and the USA.  

White told The AM Show on Friday young people are taking the environmental toll into account when deciding whether to have kids. 

"People perceive having a child as a direct strain on future resources so having a kid is creating another consumer, that means more resources are being used and more emissions are being released in terms of exacerbating climate change." 

White says anxiety around what the future will look like for children is also a driving factor. 

"The anxiety that these people are experiencing really is a testament to how pervasive the impacts of climate change can be."

She said all of the second study's participants took climate change into account when deciding whether or not to have children. 

"All of them considered having no children as their single biggest thing they could do to reduce their ecological footprint but some of them were still very sad or disappointed about the prospect of not being able to have that experience of raising a family."

White said some couples were considering adoption as a way to get the experience of raising a family without the environmental impacts. 

"Some couples were considering adoption as a perceivable more environmentally friendly option of having kids." 

While most Governments and companies have climate change policies, White said most participants didn't believe they were enough. 

"They didn't feel content that the systemic change that we needed was going to be actualised and they felt the only option for them was to take it into their own hands."

New Zealand's fertility rate has been steadily declining since the 1960s. It now sits around 1.6 children per woman, on average - well below the replacement rate of 2.1.