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  • Rick Bonetti

Religion, Politics and Climate Change

Updated: Oct 29, 2023

This blog aggregates and draws attention to examples of how various faith traditions see the climate crisis as an important moral issue. Yale Forum on Religion and Ecology has links to Climate Change Statements from World Religions.

Pew Research on November 17, 2022, published an article How Religion Intersects With Americans’ Views on the Environment that found "while responsibility for the Earth is part of many U.S. Christians’ beliefs... so is skepticism about climate change."

A 2018 article published in the National Library of Medicine "argues that religious beliefs significantly influence a community’s understanding and experience of climate change adaptation, indicating the need for the inclusion of such information in climate change adaptation education." The authors found that "community members who regard themselves as religious fall under two groups:

  1. Religious determinists or fatalists see climate as a natural process that is governed by God, or

  2. Religious participants who deny this ‘naturalness’ and acknowledge humans’ impact on the climate."

This finding was expanded In Religion and Climate Change Views in the Pacific Northwest, a 2021 Masters thesis by Alexis R. James:

  1. "Those identifying as Judeo-Christians and Evangelical were significantly less likely to respond that climate change was caused mostly by human activities, while those identifying as Atheist/Agnostic were significantly more likely to do so."

  2. "Higher levels of religiosity (i.e., self-reported church attendance, prayer frequency, and importance of religion) were also associated with lower levels of belief that climate change is caused mostly by human activities."

  3. "At the same time, political ideology proved even more important in shaping beliefs about climate change... with those identifying as politically conservative significantly less likely to respond that climate change was caused mostly by human activities and those identifying as politically liberal significantly more likely to do so."

Pew Research found that the primary reason why religious Americans tend to be less concerned about climate change is that "the main driver of U.S. public opinion about the climate is political party, not religion." "Highly religious Americans are more inclined than others to identify with or lean toward the Republican Party, and Republicans tend to be much less likely than Democrats to believe that human activity (such as burning fossil fuels) is warming the Earth or to consider climate change a serious problem."

Global Affairs affirms Republicans and Democrats in Different Worlds on Climate Change: "Large majorities of Democrats think the United States should play a leading role in limiting climate change (81%) and consider it to be a critical threat (82%). By contrast, only 31% of Republicans support a leading U.S. role in limiting climate change, and just 16% consider it a critical threat."

Brian McLaren, in an October 28, 2023 The Work of The People reel, illuminates an important distinction between conservative and liberal Christian responses to the climate emergency and weakness on both sides.

Pew Research also found that climate change may be a generational issue with "Younger evangelicals in the U.S. are more concerned than their elders about climate change." Religious affiliation declines with each younger generation. Millennials [born between 1981 and 1996] are much less likely than their elders to hold some religious beliefs connected to the environment.

Data from the 2022 Chicago Council Survey reveal that "Six in 10 each of Millennials and Gen Z see climate change as a critical threat to US interests (59%), compared to just about half each of Gen X (52%), Boomers (51%), and the Silent Generation (49%)."


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