The climate's being wrecked by people like Boris Johnson, Cristiano Ronaldo and the Yorkshire Shepherdess. Over-breeders need to tie a knot in it, for all our sakes

Heat pumps and electric cars can’t save a world with too many people on it, says Fleet Street Fox

When Boris Johnson takes to the main stage at the COP26 summit on Sunday, he will lay out all the ways that he is personally battling climate change.

There’ll be talk of hydrogen boilers, heat pumps, electric charging points, carbon targets, going further faster and no doubt he’ll expend a lot of hot air on why supergluing a hippy to the road has a greater carbon footprint than a yeti in a coal mine.

But he won’t mention one of biggest causes of climate change in the room – his own egotistical desire to create 7 miniature versions of himself, in a world already over-populated by Johnsons.

The main characteristic of the family gene appears to be a sense of self-worth that is in inverse proportion to their actual worth, which has obviously worked wonders for them, but in the absence of any other achievements it’s perhaps less of a win for humanity as a whole.

“Seriously, you can stop now.”


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Each child alive now may eat less meat than their parents, but will need more servers. They may rely more on solar energy, but they’ll expect more microchips, robots, healthcare, and water. In the case of the Johnsons, they may require political power to survive, and then we’re all screwed.

As a man who complains that he doesn’t have enough money to live on, you’d think it might occur to him that, after two divorces, four children, and a paternity fight over a fifth, the latest two were an extravagance neither he, nor we, could afford. Were he from Burnley rather than the Bullingdon, and on benefits rather than the international stage, you can bet your bottom dollar that Daily Wellygraph columnists would be calling for his sterilisation.

Then there are those who can afford to feed their children, and see no reason not to have more of them. Cristiano Ronaldo and his partner Georgina Rodriguez have announced they’re expecting twins – bringing his total to 6, and hers to 3.

Perhaps one will grow up to find a cure for brain cancer, and perhaps we’ll just get 6 more people who expect private jets and constant international travel. “Our hearts are full of love,” said the expectant parents. “Your houses are full of nannies,” the rest of us might think.




Anyone suggesting a rule about how many children is reasonable should take a look at China, and the economic and social damage of arbitrarily legislating for demographic change with a single child policy. Humans make mistakes, they get swept away by passion, and some of them aren’t so good at counting up to 28. Twins are almost always a surprise, contraception is fallible, and vasectomies have been known to reverse.

But the correlation between population growth and climate change is indisputable. In the 20th century, the number of humans multiplied by more than 3 – from 1.6bn to 6.1bn. In the same time, emissions of carbon dioxide grew by a factor of 12. Not only does every new human consume, but they spew out more greenhouse gases than their parents did.

So if you can’t legislate to reduce the population, and we want to continue the medical advances that protect us against disease and premature death, then there’s only one option left.

We need to make big families as socially unacceptable as drink-driving. And that’ll never happen while humans treat children like a status symbol.

In Middle England, it’s a sign of middle-class comfort to have four kids. In sub-Saharan Africa, it’s a sign of patriarchal power. In the Americas it’s an article of religious faith, while among royalty it’s a guarantee your family can keep what it shouldn’t have.

Not long ago it was more normal. My own grandmother was the last of 6 children, her mother the last of 8. But they didn’t have the telly, or contraception, and besides, the babies didn’t all grow up.

For some, multiple children was a form of cheap labour to help run the farm. Perhaps that still applies for Yorkshire Shepherdess Amanda Owen and husband Clive, whose 9 children are arguably one of the main causes of public fascination with their lives, which has led to 5 books and 3 TV series to pad the paper-thin profits of sheep farming.

But then again, the family income would need less padding if there were fewer of them. And as Clive already had two children when they started their breeding programme, he’s officially more fecund than Henry II.

I’m amazed she’s walking, never mind farming as well

These people are increasingly outliers, though. Official data shows that in 1996 the UK had 7.3m families. Of these, 41% had one child, 41% had two, and 17% of them, or 1.2m people, had three or more children.

By 2020, the number of families had grown to 8m, but more of them had fewer offspring. Almost 43% of families have just one child, just under 42% have kept it to two, and the number with three or more has dropped to 15%.

Other things changed too – there are now 16,000 same-sex families with children, an increase of 100,000 lone parents, and the number of cohabitee families has more than doubled. Despite what Tories are forever telling us, those parents seem more thoughtful than the “traditional” sort, as they’re less likely to have 3 or more offspring.

Whether it’s because of more education, better careers for women, or a rise in costs and house prices which means the money doesn’t stretch to extra sprogs, people in the UK are having fewer children. But only just: the average number of children has gone from 2.42 in 1996 to 2.39 in 2020.

But for the world leaders who’ll be at COP 26, the average is 3.



AFP via Getty Images)

There are 15 prime ministers and presidents going to Glasgow. Between them, they have 45 children – and Boris Johnson, with 7, is second only to the fertility of Nigeria’s Mohammadu Buhari, who has 10.

Ghanaian president Nana Akufo-Addo boasts 5, while Joe Biden, Israel’s Naftali Bennett, and Turkey’s Tayyip Erdogan tie for 4th place with 4 each. Justin Trudeau of Canada and Ivan Duque of Colombia both have 3 children, while just two leaders – Mario Draghi of Italy and Scott Morrison of Australia – have kept it to a tidy 2. Argentina’s Alberto Fernandez has managed a hyper-reasonable 1.

Evidently, success in politics is linked to willy-waving. The only female on the list, Nicola Sturgeon, has no children, which may explain why there’s not more on it.

This summit run by men is having a man’s argument about who’s to blame and who should pay. Were it run by women, they might be more aware that childbirth reduces the importance of penises, rather than the opposite.

Imagine if COP 26 had a host with the awareness to stand on stage and tell the world: “Scotland is at this moment underwater because people thought the future of the human race depended on breeding, rather than thinking. Mother Earth has too many children. It’s time to tie a knot in it, for all our sakes.”

You’ll have to imagine that, because what’s going to happen is father of 7 Boris Johnson will tell everyone else they’re littering up the place, then make like Johnny Big Balls because he’s fixed it.

If only he could get to higher ground.


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