Chris Blattman

The best way to tackle climate change: Family planning?

Via Owen Barder:

Suppose you had $1 million to spend on tackling climate change.  How would you spend it to get the best bang for your million bucks?

…According to a recent paper by David Wheeler and Dan Hammer, climate change experts at the Center for Global Development, the answer is (drum roll): you would do much, much better to spend your money on a combination of family planning and girls’ education in developing countries.

This table, based on data in their paper, shows how many tonnes of CO2 would be abated for your $1m:

Intervention Tonnes of CO2
Family planning & girls’ education combined 250,000
Family planning alone 222,222
Girls education alone 100,000
Reduce slash and burn of forests 66,667
Pasture management 50,000
Geothermal energy 50,000
Energy efficient buildings 50,000
Pastureland afforestation 40,000
Nuclear energy 40,000
Reforestation of degraded forests 40,000
Plug-in hybrid cars 33,333
Solar 33,333
Power plant biomass co-firing 28,571
Carbon Capture and Storage (new) 28,571
Carbon Capture and Storage (retrofit) 26,316

If you’re not reading Owen’s development blog, you should be.

2 Responses

  1. Hi Chris, I had a row with some population controllers about this just before Copenhagen, when they tried to piggybank on the interest in climate change (wow, that seems a long time ago) by offering a ‘population offset’. I think the connection is specious – among other things, over the last 30 years, the countries with fastest population growth rates have the slowest emissions growth rate, and vice versa. See for more
    best wishes

Why We Fight - Book Cover
Subscribe to Blog