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Australian Women Choosing Climate Over Having Children!

Because of record low births in certain populations, Australian researchers are exploring to what extent climate change and extreme weather events are influencing women’s decisions not to have children in a first-of-its-kind study for Australia.

Australia's climate has warmed on average by 1.5 C since national records began in 1910 and sea levels continue to rise. Increasing levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are being caused mostly by the burning of fossil fuels. These gases trap the Sun's heat and cause Earth's temperature to rise. Ultimately Australian couples, who have been together for years, have increasingly decided not to become biological parents.

Dr Carla Pascoe Leahy, a historian of motherhood, childhood and family from the University of Tasmania, says a growing number of men and women across Australia are choosing not to have children. “We began to notice more and more people, particularly young women, saying that their concerns about climate change were starting to make them question whether they should be having children.” It's the reason she and a team of researchers launched a first-of-its-kind study into how climate change is influencing reproductive decisions.

“What was really interesting was when we put out our call for participants on social media … we were flooded with responses, it was as though we touched a nerve,” Dr Pascoe Leahy says. ABS demography director Emily Walter says there has been an overall decline in the birthrate over the past decade.“The last peak we saw was in 2008 at 2.02 babies per woman and since then it has, with (few) fluctuations, been on that decline.”

The Albanese government's climate bill for Australia to reach net zero emissions by 2050 passed parliament in September 2023 and included an emissions reduction target of 43 per cent by 2030. Scientists say Australia should instead aim for about 74 per cent. Minister for Climate Change and Energy Chris Bowen said in December: "There are some who call for more. I understand the sentiment and, of course, as we have said repeatedly, we see the 43 per cent as a floor not a ceiling."

In the first half of 2023, approximately 71.14 thousand babies were born in Australia. This suggests that Australia's birth rate will decline in 2023, In 2021, First Nations (Indigenous Australians) babies accounted for 6.1% (19,155) of all births. In stark contrast to the birth decline in other sectors of the population a high proportion of First Nations babies were born at term (87%) and with a normal birthweight (88%). 812,728 people identified as being of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander origin in the 2021 Census – up 25.2% (163,557 people) from 2016. 76.2% of the increase was in the 0-19 year age cohort. The birth rate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander females fluctuated between 68 per 1,000 in 2005 and 77 per 1,000 in 2016, and was 75 per 1,000 in 2020. For Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander women, the total fertility rate was 2.35 births per woman almost double that of other Australian demographics which are in a decline.


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