Oregon State University statisticians say the carbon impact of one child is almost 20 times greater than that of some other environmentally sensitive practices some people employ their entire lives -- like driving a high-mileage car, recycling or using energy-efficient appliances and light bulbs.
However, the potential carbon impacts vary dramatically across countries. The average long-term carbon impact of a child born in the United States, along with all of its descendants, is more than 160 times the impact of a child born in Bangladesh, the study says.
"In discussions about climate change, we tend to focus on the carbon emissions of an individual over his or her lifetime," Paul Murtaugh, an Oregon State University professor of statistics, says in a statement.
The researchers make it clear they are not advocating government controls or intervention on population issues. They say they want to make people aware of the environmental consequences of their reproductive choices.