According to a new report from the prestigious London School of Economics, birth control is a less expensive way to reduce carbon dioxide emissions than most green energy strategies.

The report’s author looked at the unintended pregnancy rate worldwide (a stunning 40 percent) and extrapolated the effect that would be exerted on the environment from 2010 to 2050 if everyone had full access to contraception. He concluded that decreasing carbon emissions through contraception costs about $7 per ton of carbon dioxide, cheaper than everything else he analyzed except geothermal and sugar cane (presumably sugar cane ethanol). By comparison, wind power costs about $24 per ton of CO2 saved, and retrofitting coal plants for carbon capture is about $83 per ton.

A different report by the World Health Organization details how out-of-control population growth is itself increasing environmental problems such as drought and limited fresh water, independent of climate change effects. The WHO plans to release the report in November, according to

So, I guess the lesson is: keep your pants on, people! Or can a policy that really helps the earth come out of this?

If we’re trading carbon credits now, will we be trading baby credits in the future? Should the right to bear children be more regulated, or is it a fundamental right that we should breed nilly-willy even if it destroys the planet? Is China ahead of the rest of the world on this one? Should we be urgently airlifting condoms to regions of the world that don’t have enough access to contraception?

You can read the contraception research, which was sponsored by the Optimum Population Trust, here [pdf].

[via CNET and Treehugger]