Glenn Beck introduced one of his most bizarre segments last night with this lead:
â€œThe best way to leave no carbon footprint is to not exist. In a study done by crazy people in Oregon, [titled] Reproduction and the Carbon Legacy of Individuals, researchers found that if you really want to be ‘green,’ you should have one less child — especially an American child. In the United States, the ‘carbon legacy‘ of a child is twenty times more important than other ‘green’ things you can do, like driving a hybrid or using fluorescent light bulbs.â€
Take a moment to let that sink in. You cannot be faulted for thinking that Beck is making this up, and that no serious scholar would waste a minute on this nonsense.
And yet, youâ€™d be wrong. There is such a study, and it was indeed written by two Oregon State University academics: Paul A. Murtaugh (Department of Statistics) and Michael G. Schlax (College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences).
It is a predictably dense and nearly unreadable study packed with enough mathematical formulae to choke an elephant, but the authors aim to persuade us that our current (American)Â reproductive choices, left unchecked, will have disastrous consequences for the future health of the planet. From the study:
The reproductive choices of an individual are rarely incorporated into calculations of his personal impact on the environment. Here we [will] estimate the extra emissions of fossil carbon dioxide that an average individual causes when he or she chooses to have children. Our basic premise is that a person is responsible for the carbon emissions of his descendants, weighted by their relatedness to him.
What does this mean?
It means, quite simply, that those of you planning on having a child at some point now have something more important to think about â€”Â that offspring’s future impact on the environment!
Citing statistical data from the United Nations Population Division, the World Health Organization and other sources, the authors, by means of sundry charts and equations, have manipulated that data to support their hypothesis, namely, that the United States — because of its high fertility rates, long life-span and current reproductive strategies — is the worldâ€™s principal culprit when it comes to greenhouse emissions, and that it should therefore seek to radically changeÂ those reproductive strategies.
The United States, we are told,Â will remain the largest contributor, by far, in future global emissions unless Americans realize â€œthat the potential savings from reduced reproduction are huge compared to the savings that can be achieved by changes in lifestyle.â€
In other words, Americans (and especially those fertile, long-living American females) will continue to slowly sap the life out ofÂ our planet — even if they driveÂ hybrid cars, switch to using fluorescent light bulbs, and dutifully recycle their aluminum cans –Â until they decide not to have a child for the sake of the planet!
The study ends with this warning:
Ignoring the consequences of reproduction can lead to serious underestimation of an individualâ€™s long-term impact on the global environment.
Who knows to what consequences a study like this, if taken seriously, can lead?