ABC News Online, Posted 3 hours 29 minutes ago
Updated 2 hours 58 minutes ago
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International economist Jeffrey Sachs is disputing calls by the Catholic Church's most senior figure in Australia, Cardinal George Pell, for the western world to populate more to avoid a social crisis.
Sydney's Catholic Archbishop says slowing population growth and apathy towards God are the biggest challenges facing the church.
"No western country is producing enough babies to keep the population stable, no western country," Cardinal Pell said yesterday.
"In many cases, there is an increase in divorce and there is an increase in serial monogamy.
"Ruthless commercial forces are telling young people that is the way forward, this is the modern way. They remain totally silent of the difficulties and damage this does to marriage and family life."
But prominent economist Jeffrey Sachs says the global population is rising too dramatically.
"The planet, everyone can feel, is just right at the limits right now in terms of food, in terms of energy supply, in terms of land use," he said.
Professor Sachs says population projections, which also take falling fertility rates into account, are already too high at around an extra 2.5 billion people by 2050.
"I do think that the world would be very wise on its own welfare and for saving the physical earth to be trying to stabilise through voluntary means the world's population at around 8 billion, not the over 9 billion which is our current trajectory right now," he said. "It's a serious problem."
Climate change sceptic
Cardinal Pell also declared himself a climate change sceptic yesterday, after the Pope had announced he had set the issue as the theme for his visit to Sydney for the World Youth Day festival.
"I'm a bit of a sceptic about the claim that human activity is likely to produce a man-made catastrophe," he said.
"I'm well aware that over the years, there have been great changes in the climate."
But he welcomed the Pope's call to rediscover "our responsibility and to find an ethical way to change our way of life".
Cardinal Pell said everyone had a moral obligation to care for the environment.
"We have an obligation to care for our environment, a moral obligation," he said.
"We also very clearly have a moral obligation not to damage or destroy or ruthlessly use the environment at the expense of future generations."