Pope moves the needle on global warming. A little.

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Old aneroid barometer

Old aneroid barometer

Old aneroid barometer

Eighteen percent of American Catholics say they’ve heard Pope Francis’ views on global warming discussed at least a little in church, as compared to 28 percent who say they haven’t heard a thing. Fifteen percent aren’t sure. Forty-five percent — presumably those who don’t go to church — say the question doesn’t apply to them.

But news of the pope’s views has reached 56 percent of them via the media. Six percent say these have influenced their own views a lot; six percent, some; and 23 percent, a little. Overall, the percentage of American Catholics who are certain that global warming is happening has increased from 31 percent to 44 percent since last Spring.

These findings come from “The Francis Effect,” a new study conducted by climate change information centers at Yale and George Mason universities. Based on a nationally representative panel survey — some 1,000 people asked questions in the Spring and the Fall — the study suggests that the pope’s widely covered environmental encyclical Laudato Si’ has significantly increased Catholics’ awareness of and concern about climate change — and perhaps other Americans’ too.

Since the Spring, the proportion of Catholics inclined to believe that global warming is happening has increased from two-thirds to three-quarters. That’s much higher than for both evangelicals (52 percent) and non-evangelical Protestants (60 percent). In the population as a whole, the proportion of believers in global warming has grown from 62 percent to 66 percent.

To be sure, Francis has not been alone in sounding the alarm about climate change this year. But in the chorus of scientists, activists, religious leaders, and politicians, he’s been the soloist. More than anyone else’s, his is the voice that’s been heard.

  • Jack

    In the end, little or nothing will be done about global warming, because from a risk management standpoint, draconian action makes no sense.

    Reality makes for strange bedfellows and the end-times preachers and the environmental hysterics have much in common with each other — including a long list of blown forecasts about the end of life as we know it. There was Paul Ehrlich and his “population bomb” silliness, based on Malthusian ideas that have long been refuted in the real world. And there was global cooling, replete with dire warnings of a new ice age.

    It’s amazing that people keep believing the same sorts of people, time and again. I guess the theory is that a broken clock is right twice a day, and that one day, the pessimists will hit pay dirt.

  • Dominic

    Being a staunch Catholic, I have a great reverence for the Holy Father. This ongoing discussion about global warming, though, is not a matter for the Church to take the reins of. The Pope has spoken out on our need to care for the planet God created for us, and that is sufficient input for the Church. Actually, it’s an obvious view any religion would have. The Pope’s stance has no authority behind it, so I wish he would concentrate on issues where he has great authority ……faith and morals.

  • samuel johnston

    @Dominic
    ” so I wish he would concentrate on issues where he has great authority ……faith and morals.”
    Faith is mere desire and speculation. Morals are best taught by example, and the Vatican is in the midst of its own moral crisis, so his authority on these matters is, ah, shall we say, limited? What would Jesus do? Would he throw the money changers out of the temple?

  • Betty Clermont

    Less than two weeks before Pope Francis was elected, National Geographic called Benedict “the Green Pope.” “One of Benedict’s lasting legacies might be how he steered the global debate over climate change … making environmental awareness a key tenant of his tenure. Benedict delivered homilies and speeches asking world leaders to take seriously the harm being inflicted on the planet … The influential Pontifical Academy of Sciences, released a report on climate change recommending that world leaders cut carbon dioxide emissions, reduce existing pollution, and prepare for the inevitable impacts of a changing climate.” Benedict installed solar panels, “enough to power the lighting, heating, and cooling of a portion of the entire Vatican.” He had the Vatican Bank carbon credits. He used a partially-electric popemobile.
    Just more selective and biased reporting by RNS for not crediting a less popular pope.

  • If the Pope changed anyone’s mind, the overwhelming effect was to reduce interest in global warming as a subject as according to Google trends, there was a downshift in interest compared to previous years.

    In other words, it just underlined the way that the science (such as the increase in ice in Antarctica, satellites showing no warming for 18 years) does not support the extremist view of climate, and now only religion can keep the faith going.