During a recent segment on his Netflix show "Bill Nye Saves the World," television personality Bill Nye asked his guests if, in order to combat climate change, there should be policies that penalize families who have "extra kids."
On one episode of the program, Dr. Travis Rieder, a philosopher at Johns Hopkins University, said that "the average Nigerian emits 0.1 metric tons of carbon annually. How many does the average American emit? Sixteen metric tons." He argued that when it comes to climate change, “our two kids are way more problematic” than large families in the developing world.
Nye asked, “So should we have policies that penalize people for having extra kids in the developed world?”
“I do think that we should at least consider it,” Rieder responded.
“ ‘At least consider it’ is, like, ‘Do it!’ ” Nye said.
“One of the things that we could do that is kind of least policy-ish is to encourage our culture and our norms to change,” Rieder said.
Neither Nye nor Rieder defined what their definition of "extra kids" would be.
Another panelist, Dr. Rachel Snow, chief of population development at the United Nations Population Fund, pushed back, arguing, “I would take issue with the idea that we do anything to incentivize fewer children or more children.”
“People should have the number of children they want, the timing of children — and if some families have five or six children, God bless them," she said. "That’s fine. But most people end up with fewer.”
Dr. Nerys Benfield, the director of Family Planning at Montefiore Medical Center in Bronx, N.Y., argued that such policies tend to disproportionately impact poor and minority women.
Social media users likened Nye’s question to eugenics.
The Washington Free Beacon noted that Rieder has long tried to persuade students not to have children in order to prevent climate change.
"Maybe we should protect our kids by not having them," he said during remarks at James Madison University last year, according to NPR.