Fertility, immigration, and the fight against climate change

Bioethics 31 (8):582-589 (2017)
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Abstract
Several philosophers have recently argued that policies aimed at reducing human fertility are a practical and morally justifiable way to mitigate the risk of dangerous climate change. There is a powerful objection to such “population engineering” proposals: even if drastic fertility reductions are needed to prevent dangerous climate change, implementing those reductions would wreak havoc on the global economy, which would seriously undermine international antipoverty efforts. In this article, we articulate this economic objection to population engineering and show how it fails. We argue, first, that the economic objection paints an inaccurate picture of the complicated relationship between demographic change and economic growth, and second, that any untoward economic effects of fertility reduction can be mitigated with additional policies. Specifically, we argue that supplementing fertility reduction with policies that facilitate the emigration of younger people from developing nations to developed nations could allow for both global reductions in GHG emissions and continued economic stability. Further, we show that moral arguments against such unprecedented increases in immigration are unsuccessful. We conclude that population engineering is a practical and morally justifiable tool for addressing the twin evils of climate change and global poverty.
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First archival date: 2017-09-14
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