Procreation, Footprint and Responsibility for Climate Change

Felix Pinkert*, Martin Sticker

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
157 Downloads (Pure)


Several climate ethicists have recently argued that having children is morally equivalent to over-consumption, and contributes greatly to parents’ personal carbon footprints. We show that these claims are mistaken, for two reasons. First, including procreation in parents’ carbon footprints double-counts children’s consumption emissions, once towards their own, and once towards their parents’ footprints. We show that such double-counting defeats the chief purpose of the concept of carbon footprint, namely to measure the sustainability and equitability of one’s activities and choices. Furthermore, we show that proposals to avoid double-counting have other unacceptable implications.
Second, we show that the key arguments for a supposed moral equivalence of procreation and consumption overgenerate and lead to unacceptable consequences in many cases, such as for the work of doctors who save lives or enable procreation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)293–321
Number of pages29
JournalThe Journal of Ethics
Publication statusPublished - 4 Aug 2020


  • climate change
  • carbon footprint
  • responsibility
  • procreation


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