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Researchers explore how climate change could affect fertility

The study suggests economic factors could come into play for many families

Photo (c) DisobeyArt - Getty Images
As climate change continues to be explored from every angle, researchers are now looking into how it could affect the rate at which consumers are having kids.

A new study has found that the changing climate could play a role in consumers’ future fertility decisions, as rising temperatures could impact nearly every facet of day-to-day life in the coming years.

“Our model suggests climate change may worsen inequalities by reducing fertility and increasing education in richer northern countries, while increasing fertility and reducing education in tropical countries,” said researcher Dr. Soheil Shayegh. “This is particularly poignant, because those richer countries have disproportionately benefited from the natural resource use that has driven climate change.”

What these changes could look like

To see how global climate change could play a role in fertility decisions, the researchers compared two economically different countries -- Switzerland and Colombia. The group was interested to see if a country’s economic power, coupled with rising global temperatures, would play a role in residents’ decision to have kids.

Using a model that combined current climate change predictions and demographic-economic theory, the researchers set up a scenario that followed participants’ decision-making at critical stages of life.

Starting in childhood as children who require attention and time from their parents, the researchers followed the participants through adulthood, where they were then parents who were forced to make big decisions -- having children, paying for their children’s education, and enriching their children’s lives so they can have successful, fulfilling adulthoods.

The researchers explain that investing quality time into children is crucial to their overall development and well-being, and it can play a role in their future endeavors and successes. The team notes that it’s important for parents to be able to devote this necessary time and attention to their children.

However, the study revealed that countries are affected differently depending on whether they rely on agricultural goods for their economies. Because agricultural development is affected by climate change, that changed some families’ fertility decisions.

According to Dr. Gregory Casey, climate change can lead to “a scarcity of agricultural goods, higher agricultural prices and wages, and ultimately, a labour reallocation,” in lower latitude countries.  

“Because agriculture makes less use of skilled labor, our model showed that climate change decreases the return on acquiring skills, leading parents to invest fewer resources in the education of each child, and to increase fertility,” Dr. Casey said.

The researchers explain that these changes look at climate change and fertility from one lens, and they think more work is needed in this area to get a fuller picture on how the birth rate can be affected by higher temperatures.

Affecting every area of life

With each new study released about climate change, consumers get a better understanding of just how far-reaching this issue is becoming.

Health is a huge concern for researchers, as recent studies have shown how allergies are worsening because of climate change. Public health has also been shown to be on the decline.

Moreover, climate change could expose one billion people to new diseases, as rising temperatures will make more areas more suitable to mosquitoes, therefore exposing more consumers to diseases like dengue, Zika, and chikunguyna than ever before.

“These diseases, which we think of as strictly tropical, have been showing up already in areas with suitable climates, such as Florida, because humans are very good at moving both bugs and their pathogens around the globe,” said researcher Sadie J. Ryan.

From an economic standpoint, experts warn that climate change could also lead to a financial crisis, as spending and saving habits will certainly be influenced by environmental changes.

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