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You Can Blame Climate Change for Your Shitty Sex Life

In a non-peer reviewed study, researchers found a link between excessively hot days and a significant drop in birth rates eight to ten months later.

by Hannah K. Gold
Nov 9 2015, 4:40pm

Foto di Azhar Rahim/EPA

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Aside from the rising temperatures, there's nothing hot about climate change.

A new working paper published in the National Bureau of Economic Research suggests that climate change could decrease the amount of sex Americans will be having in the near future, in particular during those scorching summers.

The paper, which has not been peer-reviewed, examines the long-term effects of climate change on birth rates. The economists who conducted the study tested, above all, for changes in the month of conception, shortened gestation periods, and pregnancies that did not result in births.

The authors found that days when temperatures rose above 80 degrees Fahrenheit were followed by a significant decline in birth rates eight to ten months later. A single day above 80F results in a 0.4 percent decrease in the American birthrate nine months later. They suggest that one possible explanation for the decline, at least in part, is summer heat causing a rise in the "physiological cost of coitus on a given fertile day."

The authors studied birth rates in the United States between 1931 and 2010.

Alan Barreca, a professor in Tulane University's Department of Economics and one of the three authors of the study, said the cause for the drop in birth rates is really quite simple.

"Hot weather makes physical activity very uncomfortable," he said. "We can put sex under that category."

Related: Climate Change Might Be Killing Male Fetuses

He added, "While we can't rule out the possibility of less sex, I think there is evidence to support the idea that hot weather harms reproductive health."

Jason Bremner, associate vice president and program director of Population, Health, and Environment at the Population Reference Bureau expressed reservations about the study's findings that high temperatures have a significant effect on fertility.

"[T]here is research evidence of birth seasonality in other settings with far higher fertility and a far hotter climate than the US," he said. "Ultimately fertility desires and behaviors across the globe are not driven by climate."

Both Bremner and Barreca pointed out that there are several historical and social factors that wield greater influence over fertility than rising global temperatures, such as increased access to birth control and better job and educational opportunities for women.

Perhaps the most important finding of the study is that these attenuated birth rates from the summer months rebound in part over the following few months. In other words, if a couple is unable to conceive in July or August, they will be more likely to conceive in September or October. This suggests that a shift in the common conception months could restore balance to the birth rate.

The study only analyzes data from the United States, but as Barreca notes, "This is very likely a global phenomenon. [In] many countries with similar climates to the US, like in Western Europe or Canada, births peak in the summer months."

The authors also studied how increased use of air-conditioning might reverse faltering birth rates.

"The evidence shows that air conditioning can be used to help mitigate the fertility cost of hot weather," said Barreca. Of course, as the paper acknowledges, air-conditioning also increases greenhouse gas emissions, which cause global warming, placing parents-to-be (not to mention everyone else) in a potentially sticky situation once more.

In other words, if the United States is to seriously confront the challenges of climate change, popular conception will need to adjust in more ways than one. 

Related: It's Pretty Obvious Not Enough Is Being Done Ahead of the Paris Climate Talks

Follow Hannah Gold on Twitter: @togglecoat