This post originally appeared at Catholic Climate Covenant.
What does the Church say about population control and climate change?
The Holy Father and the U.S. Catholic Bishops recognize climate change as a moral issue which threatens Creation, places added burdens on poor people, and compromises the common good of all. The Church also maintains that acceptable means to address climate change must meet the Church’s standards of morality. These standards include an authentically Catholic Pro-Life position which uncompromisingly excludes abortion, artificial contraception, and/or sterilization, and which forcefully reaffirm the inviolability of human life at every stage and in every condition, the dignity of the person and the unique mission of the family, where one is trained in love of neighbour and respect for nature. (Pope Benedict XVI, 2010 World Day of Peace Message If You Want to Cultivate Peace, Care for Creation)
Some environmentalists and environmental organizations have called for population control and artificial means of family planning as a way to address climate change, arguing that fewer people on the planet would reduce the amount of climate-changing greenhouse gases. However, as Cardinal Justin Rigali pointed out in his 2009 Statement for Respect Life Sunday:
- As used by population control advocates, the innocuous term ‘family planning’ includes abortifacient contraceptives, sterilization, and manual vacuum aspiration abortions. He went on to conclude that, Death is not a solution to life’s problems. Only those who are blind to the transcendent reality and meaning of human life could support killing human beings to mitigate economic, social or environmental problems.
In order to faithfully address the moral imperative of acting on climate change the Church is focused on the lifestyles, industries and consumption habits of industrialized nations and their citizens as these are the primary drivers of climate change. For example, the average American’s energy use leaves a carbon footprint that is 2,000 times larger and deeper than a poor person in Africa. And 80 percent of global emissions come from just 20 percent of the world’s population. As Pope Benedict XVI has observed:
- It is all too evident that large numbers of people in different countries and areas of our planet are experiencing increased hardship because of the negligence or refusal of many others to exercise responsible stewardship over the environment. (2010 World Day of Peace Message If You Want to Cultivate Peace, Care for Creation #7)
As with other social concerns, the protection of human life and the promotion of human dignity are guiding principles calling us to action and provide a vital framework for discerning among options in addressing climate change. Below, you will find a number of quotes from Church officials which further highlight and express the interrelated issues of protecting the sacredness of human life and dignity and using properly the earth’s resources in addressing climate change.
– What happened to American political will to deal with the overpopulation problem?
– Infallibility and the Population Problem
– NSSM 200, the Vatican, and the World Population Explosion
– The Vatican’s Role in the World Population Crisis: The Untold Story
Professor Milton Siegel, who for 24 years was the Assistant Director-General of the World Health Organization, speaks to Dr. Stephen Mumford in 1992 to reveal that although there was a consensus that overpopulation was a grave public health threat and would be a major cause of preventable death not too far in the future, the Vatican successfully fought off the incorporation of family planning and birth control into official WHO policy. This video is available for public viewing for the first time. Read the full transcript of the interview here.
Lester R. Brown interview with Rob Stewart
Professor Paul Ehrlich: Can a collapse of global civilization be avoided?
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