Religious Conservatives and Climate Change: The Real Story
Conventional wisdom says that conservatives tend to be less accepting of climate change – and in many cases, the statistics bear this out. But there is often more to the picture than meets the eye. For example, a recent chart about religious affiliation and climate acceptance has been getting a lot of buzz. It shows that more theologically conservative groups (Catholics and Evangelical Protestants) are more likely to be opposed to climate change policies. However, the real story is more complex than that.
A survey conducted last fall by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) found that “climate concern by Hispanic Catholics (73%) and Black Protestants (58%) exceeded the general public (50%).” Our own research has also found higher levels of concern among Hispanics and African Americans than the general population. So it’s worth keeping in mind that there are multiple factors and personal identities that shape a person’s opinions about climate. Religious affiliation is only one of them.
No matter the ethnic makeup of a congregation – or how conservative they may be – there are always opportunities to raise awareness of climate issues. The PRRI report found that when clergy speak about climate change, their members are much more inclined to see it as a concern. For more about how religious leaders are inspiring their congregations and communities on climate solutions, check out our faith initiative, Blessed Tomorrow.
By Jack Jenkins, Senior Religion Reporter for ThinkProgress
On Friday, Chris Mooney published an eye-catching blog on the Washington Post website entitled “New study reaffirms the link between conservative religious faith and climate change doubt,” his second post in as many weeks on the connection between right-wing faith and skeptical views of global warming. But while Mooney and the researchers he cites do a good job of qualifying their claims, they fail to capture a far more interesting aspect of the religious debate over the environment: that some of America’s most religious and theologically conservative churchgoers are also the most concerned about our changing climate.
In his posts, Mooney uses two studies to argue that conservative religious belief can trigger climate change denial — namely, a chart created by Josh Rosenau of the National Center for Science Education and new study conducted by David Konisky and Matthew Arbuckle of Georgetown and the University of Cincinnati, respectively. The chart is particularly telling, as more theologically conservative groups appear to cluster at the bottom-left of the graphic, signaling simultaneous opposition to evolution and “climate change policies.”
Image credit: AP Photo/Jorge Saenz