Solutions to climate change range from the effective and the practical to the potentially catastrophically dangerous—but, in this somewhat heated debate, a potent weapon in our arsenal are falling by the wayside: the empowerment of women. Increasing the number of people on plant-rich diets and using electric vehicles are effective carbon-cutting measures often proposed by climate hawks.
But two lesser-known solutions also made this most practical of lists: the education of girls and family planning. This is a stunning revelation, one that couldn’t be more pertinent, and yet, for the most part, discussions of mitigation and de-carbonization focus heavily on other matters, from the perceived perils and bona fide benefits of nuclear power, to just how quickly solar power is proliferating.
Climate Change Is Birth Control the Answer? is a sensitive issue. Not all women want to talk about them. But according to population council experts claim, improved access to birth control could slow population growth and reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 40%.
The link between the education of girls and a smaller carbon footprint isn’t as intuitively obvious as, say, phasing out fossil fuels. But dig a little deeper, and the evidence is overwhelming. It’s clear that getting more girls into school, and giving them quality education, has a series of profound, cascading effects: reduced incidence of disease, higher life expectancies, more economic prosperity, fewer forced marriages, and fewer children.
The education of girls and family planning can be considered as a single issue involving the empowerment of women in communities across the world. By taking steps toward universal education and investing in family planning in developing nations, the world could nix 120 billion tons of emissions by 2050.