In recent years, the discourse surrounding climate change has transitioned away from a political issue, and into a moral concern that faith leaders are taking head on. In Yale's new report, Faith, Morality and the Environment: Portraits of Global Warming’s Six Americas, researchers explore this transition, uncovering the strategies implemented through successful leadership in faith communities. Split into six categories, American discourse surrounding the issue is presented as a concern over values, with a growing number of survey respondents sharing that their religious views influence their opinions on climate change, namely, it impacts on the world's most vulnerable.
While this number is still relatively low (40%), it demonstrates a shift in not only the way people view climate change but also the role faith leaders play in advocating for the climate and those that inhabit creation. One key finding uncovered that "most Americans say that caring for the poor, the environment and future generations is important," a line of thinking partically attributed to Pope Francis outreach on climate change, positing the issue as a moral imperative. Read the full report here!
Our new report: “Faith, Morality and the Environment: Portraits of Global Warming’s Six Americas” explores Americans’ receptivity to a moral framing around the issue of climate change.
Over the course of 2015, we witnessed an evolution in public discourse on global warming. Typically discussed in the news media solely as a scientific, environmental or political issue, global warming is now being reframed as a moral and spiritual issue by religious leaders – most notably by Pope Francis. Americans are now hearing – often for the first time – that global warming will have severe impacts on the world's poor; that it violates divine dictates on the treatment of nature; and that it requires a concerted response from all nations in the name of social justice and God's will.
To explore Americans' receptivity to a moral framing, in Spring 2015, before the Pope’s encyclical and visit to the U.S., we assessed the religious and spiritual values and beliefs of Global Warming's Six Americas, six groups within the American public with very different views on global warming. We found that most Americans at the time did not view global warming as a moral issue. Only the most concerned groups – the Alarmed and Concerned – viewed global warming as a moral issue, and only the Alarmed viewed it as an issue of social justice or poverty. Less than a third of any segment said global warming is a spiritual or religious issue, and 40 percent said that their views on the issue reflected their core moral values only slightly or not at all.