Beliefs Culture

We’re awestruck about Earth, unsure about global warming

A polar bear walks along ice floes in the Arctic Ocean.
Climate Change Concern Index by Religious Affiliation, graphic courtesy of Public Religion Research Institute.

Climate Change Concern Index by Religious Affiliation, graphic courtesy of Public Religion Research Institute.

(RNS) Most Americans say they feel a deep connection to the wider world.

But all that spiritual stargazing makes no difference in views about the facts of climate change and global warming, a new survey finds.

Just 5 percent of Americans thought climate change was the most important issue in the U.S. today. And religion was a major dividing point on how much — or how little — they think it’s a matter of concern, according to a new survey by the Public Religion Research Institute.

A polar bear walks along ice floes in the Arctic Ocean.

Photo courtesy of FloridaStock via Shutterstock

A polar bear walks along ice floes in the Arctic Ocean.

“We asked about spiritual measures such as being in awe of the universe, and you might think it would correlate with views about the universe. But, in fact,  they have very little relationship,” said Robert Jones, CEO of PRRI, which conducted the survey on U.S. adults’ attitudes toward climate change, environmental policy and science.

The survey found:

  • 70 percent of Americans said they “experience a connection to all life” every day or most days.
  • 69 percent said they “feel deep inner peace or harmony.”
  • 64 percent “feel a deep connection with nature and the Earth.”
  • 53 percent “feel a deep sense of wonder about the universe.”

Yet, when asked about global warming or climate change, the survey found three divisions.

The largest group, dubbed the “Believers” (46 percent overall), said global warming is a fact and they lay the blame on human activity. They were most likely (74 percent) to be very or somewhat concerned about climate change.

Sympathizers (25 percent) saw the Earth as heating up. However, they attributed this to natural causes or said they were uncertain why global warming was happening.  Fewer of them (42 percent) expressed concern about climate change.

Skeptics (26 percent overall)  say “there is no solid evidence” of the Earth’s temperature rising in recent decades. Neither does it worry them: 82 percent say they were somewhat or very unconcerned about climate change.

Religious identity was a greater marker of attitudes than general spirituality.  Only 27 percent of white evangelical Protestants are climate change Believers, while 29 percent are Sympathizers and 39 percent are Skeptics.

Hearing about climate change from the pulpit made a difference, said Jones.

“Only about one in three Americans said they heard their clergy speak about it, often or sometimes,” Jones said.  “But, among those who did, 49 percent are climate change Believers.” 

When asked their level of concern about climate change, members of minority religious groups were most likely to be somewhat or very concerned: Hispanic Catholics (73 percent), people unaffiliated with any religion (60 percent), black Protestants (58 percent), non-Christian religious (56 percent) and Jews (53 percent).

Concern dropped sharply among more conservative religious white people. The issue troubled only 35 percent of white evangelical Protestants, 41 percent of white Catholics and 43 percent of white mainline Protestants.

Researchers pushed the skeptics for the reason why they have doubts about global warming:

  • 33 percent said “they have not noticed a change in the weather around them.” One typical reply, “I live in Chicago and it’s cold as hell.”
  • 18 percent said temperatures rise naturally.
  • 12 percent saw conflicting or insufficient evidence.

Only 2 percent said God was in control.

PRRI found a small growth in the number of Americans who said natural disasters are evidence of the biblical end times or apocalypse. In 2011, 44 percent of Americans said the severity of recent natural disasters is a sign of the biblical end times. Today 49 percent hold that view.

The survey, to be released Saturday (Nov. 22) at the American Academy of Religion conference, is based on 3,022 interviews with U.S. adults conducted in English and Spanish between Sept. 18 and Oct. 8. The margin of error is plus or minus 2.8 percentage points.


About the author

Cathy Lynn Grossman

Cathy Lynn Grossman specializes in stories drawn from research and statistics on religion, spirituality and ethics. She also writes frequently on biomedical ethics and end-of-life-issues


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  • 1. Science is not joking.
    Global warming is being caused by human activity. Everyone who lives on the coast already feels the impact of rising seas.

    2. Religion is an assault on reason.
    Every person who rejects reason and replaces it with religion
    contributes to the expansion of ignorance.

    The highly financed religious right wing zealots are running the politics, so it is time to challenge religion itself as a part of the political process.

    For Peace, Civility and The Separation of Church and State

  • “Science is not joking.”

    Yeah, right. It would be a lot easier to sell this Global Warming Religion, if respected and prominent climate researchers like Dr. Lennart Bengtsson hadn’t been bullied and censored.

    Here is the Big Sin that the multiple-awarded Bengtsson committed. He said earlier this year:

    “I think the climate community shall be more critical and spend more time to understand what they are doing instead of presenting endless and often superficial results and to do this with a critical mind. I do not believe that the IPCC machinery is what is best for science in the long term. We are still in a situation where our knowledge is insufficient and climate models are not good enough. What we need is more basic research freely organized and driven by leading scientists without time pressure to deliver and only deliver when they believe the result is good and solid enough. It is not for scientists to determine what society should do. In order for society to make sensible decisions in complex issues it is essential to have input from different areas and from different individuals. The whole concept behind IPCC is basically wrong.”

    And here is the punishment that Bengtsson received:

    “Dear Professor (David) Henderson: I have been put under such an enormous group pressure in recent days from all over the world that has become virtually unbearable to me. If this is going to continue I will be unable to conduct my normal work and will even start to worry about my health and safety. I see therefore no other way out therefore than resigning from GWPF. I had not expect[ed] such an enormous world-wide pressure put at me from a community that I have been close to all my active life. Colleagues are withdrawing their support, other colleagues are withdrawing from joint authorship etc.
    I see no limit and end to what will happen.”

    Is this how “Science” is done these days, Max? Sheesh.

  • Why would a minister be chuffering about climatology? You have 11 minutes with the congregation on Sunday to provide an exegesis of the day’s readings. A sermon which offers a treatment of the Gospel and then connects it to some point made in the Epistle, the Psalm, the Collect, or Old Testament reading offered is rare. You do not have time for these sorts of side excursions. If you’ve something to say about a topical question, you can stick an insert in the bulletin. Hint: for a clergyman with serious vocation, babble about climate is not going to be a priority. The rubber just does not hit the road there in this world.

  • @Doc,

    The price we pay for the comfort of Jesus/Yahweh/Allah religions:

    1. No need to fix this world – God intends Armageddon anyway.
    2. No need to try to reverse global problems – see above.
    3. No need to think – see above and ‘let god’ do it his way.

    It adds up to complete irresponsibility. You better hope God really did turn into his own son and have his own son slaughtered – you better hope God is real and that you have the ‘right’ story about Armageddon.

    Because if you are wrong and your God isn’t real, all of this miserable irresponsibility will destroy the earth for human habitation for no reason at all – maybe even in your own lifetime.

    Because global warming was preventable!

    “Ignorance isn’t just what you don’t know.
    It’s what you won’t know” – Aron Ra

  • Well how about “Love thy neighbor as thyself” means, among other things, not trashing the planet (s)he depends on ….

  • I am somewhere between the sympathizer and skeptic. I am not so much suspicious of science though we must always realize that scientists are fallible and have their own biases. That being said my main source of hesitancy is how political this issue has become. In my way of thinking that in and of itself taints the discussion.

  • The most telling stat is “only 2 percent said God was in control.” This is a survey of the religious community. If it can’t make the connection between God and their religious beliefs they can hardly be expected to make the factual connection between our activities and our environment. Since “nones” are only about 30% of humanity, being dominated by believers who are unable to connect any dots it seems the age of asininity we are in will likely be our last.

  • Regarding Climate change and the surveys regarding such. From where I am at nearly seventy-five years of age, I cannot understand how evangelicals (white like me in the break down), have arrived at this point. When I pastored, it was not unusual to get what is called bulletin covers (Some of you know nice picture on the front, with a message printed on the back). You could put the order of service and announcements in side. These came from conservation organizations, you know “take care of the earth God provided in His creation”. There are many places in the scriptures which speak of allowing the earth to rest.

    What happened? Between fundamentalism and the science denying Republican Party and only God knows what else some, yes some evangelicals deny global warming.

  • “PRRI found a small growth in the number of Americans who said natural disasters are evidence of the biblical end times or apocalypse. In 2011, 44 percent of Americans said the severity of recent natural disasters is a sign of the biblical end times. Today 49 percent hold that view.”

    Half of all Americans believe that “natural disasters are evidence of the biblical end times or apocalypse?”

    There are parts of the poll where I see that I don’t agree with all of what my fellow Americans are thinking. That is fine. This, on the other hand, I find extremely disturbing. Does this make it OK to do things that cause or worsen “natural” disasters?

  • Chad,

    Yes. Climate Change has become political because democrats were the first to point out that the science was being ignored by industry.

    Industry responded brilliantly by making it into a Religious Right wing Republican lobby – recruiting Evangelicals and claiming “Dominionist” as a religious freedom issue.

    In other words, “God gave man dominion over the earth”
    The claim is that this all of this is God’s plan and government should not interrupt it.

    Evangelicals were easily suckered into this as a voting block and as a lobby – Evangelical big money lobby coincides perfectly with the likes of Koch Brothers and Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News.
    Christian Dominionism is a Corporate religion – Hobby Lobby was granted a religion by the Supreme Court this year so that decision is the tip of the spear.

    The fundamentals of Corporate Oligarchy are in place.

    Not only is our democracy in danger because of religious lobbying, but our world is in danger because of religious bullying.

    For Peace, Humanity and the Separation of Church and State
    Question the claims of religion.

  • “God gave us the earth. We have dominion over the plants, the animals, the trees. God said, ‘Earth is yours. Take it. Rape it. It’s yours.'”

    — Devout Christian Ann Coulter explains the Biblical position on environmental issues

  • Yes, I am definitely awestruck about earth as well, and consider our “home” and everything on it (plants, animals, food, water sources, etc.) as a great gift from God!

    He made this planet especially for us humans, and his purpose, to begin with, was for us to live forever on it!

    His purpose has not changed, even with the sin of our patents, Adam and Eve, and through the means of Jesus’ ransom sacrifice (John 3:16) and the upcoming millennial rule of God’s kingdom or heavenly government over mankind on earth, that purpose will be fulfilled!!

    No, I have no desire to go to heaven at all, but I look forward to that heavenly rule by God’s kingdom with Jesus as King and 144,000 from earth who only have that heavenly hope, over me and the vast majority of mankind, on our forever home, planet earth!!!! 😀


    People in the USA, are being told by the U.S. government and media that global warming is man-made. If that is true, how can the government and media explain the high temperatures the earth has experienced in past years when there were far fewer people? Let us look back in the world’s history: for example, between roughly 900AD and 1350AD the temperatures were much higher than now. And, back then there were fewer people, no cars, no electric utilities, and no factories, etc. So what caused the earth’s heat? Could it be a natural occurrence? The temperature graph at the bottom of this article shows the temperatures of the earth before Christ to 2040.

    In the book THE DISCOVERERS published in February 1985 by Daniel J. Boorstin, beginning in chapter 28, it goes into detail about Eric the Red, the father of Lief Ericsson, and how he discovered an island covered in green grass.

    In approximately 983AD, Eric the Red committed murder, and was banished from Iceland for three years. Eric the Red sailed 500 miles west from Iceland and discovered an island covered in GREEN grass, which he named Greenland. Greenland reminded Eric the Red of his native Norway because of the grass, game animals, and a sea full of fish. Even the air provided a harvest of birds. Eric the Red and his crew started laying out sites for farms and homesteads, as there was no sign of earlier human habitation.

    When his banishment expired, Eric the Red returned to congested Iceland to gather Viking settlers. In 986, Eric the Red set sail with an emigrant fleet of twenty-five ships carrying men, women, and domestic animals. Unfortunately, only fourteen ships survived the stormy passage, which carried about four-hundred-fifty immigrants plus the farm animals. The immigrants settled on the southern-west tip and up the western coast of Greenland.

    After the year 1200AD, the Earth’s and Greenland’s climate grew colder; ice started building up on the southern tip of Greenland. Before the end of 1300AD, the Viking settlements were just a memory. You can find the above by searching Google. One link is:

    The following quote you can also read about why there is global warming. This is from the book EINSTEIN’S UNIVERSE, Page 63, written by Nigel Calder in 1972, and updated in 1982.

    “The reckoning of planetary motions is a venerable science. Nowadays it tells us, for example, how gravity causes the ice to advance or retreat on the Earth during the ice ages. The gravity of the Moon and (to a lesser extent) of the Sun makes the Earth’s axis swivel around like a tilted spinning top. Other planets of the Solar System, especially Jupiter, Mars and Venus, influence the Earth’s tilt and the shape of its orbit, in a more-or-less cyclic fashion, with significant effects on the intensity of sunshine falling on different regions of the Earth during the various seasons. Every so often a fortunate attitude and orbit of the Earth combine to drench the ice sheets in sunshine as at the end of the most recent ice age, about ten thousand years ago. But now our relatively benign interglacial is coming to an end, as gravity continues to toy with our planet.”

    The above points out that the universe is too huge and the earth is too small for the earth’s population to have any effect on the earth’s temperature. The earth’s temperature is a function of the sun’s temperature and the effects from the many massive planets in the universe, i.e., “The gravity of the Moon and (to a lesser extent) of the Sun makes the Earth’s axis swivel around like a tilted spinning top. Other planets of the Solar System, especially Jupiter, Mars and Venus, influence the Earth’s tilt and the shape of its orbit, in a more-or-less cyclic fashion, with significant effects on the intensity of sunshine falling on different regions of the Earth during the various seasons.”

    Read below about carbon dioxide, which we need in order to exist. You can find the article below at:


    Of the 186 billion tons of carbon from CO2 that enter earth’s atmosphere each year from all sources, only 6 billion tons are from human activity. Approximately 90 billion tons come from biologic activity in earth’s oceans and another 90 billion tons from such sources as volcanoes and decaying land plants.

    At 380 parts per million CO2 is a minor constituent of earth’s atmosphere–less than 4/100ths of 1% of all gases present. Compared to former geologic times, earth’s current atmosphere is CO2- impoverished.

    CO2 is odorless, colorless, and tasteless. Plants absorb CO2 and emit oxygen as a waste product. Humans and animals breathe oxygen and emit CO2 as a waste product. Carbon dioxide is a nutrient, not a pollutant, and all life– plants and animals alike– benefit from more of it. All life on earth is carbon-based and CO2 is an essential ingredient. When plant-growers want to stimulate plant growth, they introduce more carbon dioxide.

    CO2 that goes into the atmosphere does not stay there, but continuously recycled by terrestrial plant life and earth’s oceans– the great retirement home for most terrestrial carbon dioxide.

    If we are in a global warming crisis today, even the most aggressive and costly proposals for limiting industrial carbon dioxide emissions and all other government proposals and taxes would have a negligible effect on global climate!

    The government is lying, trying to use global warming to limit, and tax its citizens through “cap and trade” and other tax schemes for the government’s benefit. We, the people cannot allow this to happen.

    A temperature graph normally goes here that shows the Earth’s Temperature from -2400 to guesses in +2400.

    If the Earth’s temperature graph is not shown above, you can see this temperature graph at the link:

  • @Harold Faulkner,

    “even the most aggressive and costly proposals for limiting industrial carbon dioxide emissions and all other government proposals and taxes would have a negligible effect on global climate!”


    This situation can be turned around.
    Germany is heading to 100% green, it is producing millions of jobs. Other countries will follow in the next decade.

    Your ignorance about how science works sinks your entire argument.
    Your links are laughably nutty.

  • What happened? Between fundamentalism and the science denying Republican Party and only God knows what else some, yes some evangelicals deny global warming.

    Nothing happened. You think in slogans, which interferes with your ability to see anything very clearly.

  • Yes, sometimes people behave badly. There are other examples of someone being socially rejected because they disagree on this topic.

    On the other hand, can you give me an example of an engineering or scientific society that has not accepted the concept of human-induced climate change? Can you give me an example of a science magazine that has rejected climate change?

  • Anne must not be aware that God did not want us to “rape” or destroy or pollute our planet, just to fill and subdue it (Genesis 1:28).

    In addition, God promises to bring to ruin those ruining the earth (Revelation 11:18), so this was definitely not what he purposed for the earth.

  • No, I am not aware of any “science magazine” that “rejects” climate change.

    But these days, you have to put both “science magazine” and the words “accept” or “reject” into quotation marks, because there are a LOT of asterisks and bewares surrounding each term.

    For example, the previously mentioned prominent climate scientist Lennart Bengtsson DID, in fact, attempt to publish his concerns in a refereed “science journal.” (In fact, Bengtsson has OVER 200 refereed publications in climate studies and meteorology, no joke.) His paper disagreed with some of the IPCC’s global-warming estimates.

    So he gets rejected by this “science journal.” Why? “(Bengtsoon’s paper) is harmful as it opens the door for oversimplified claims of ‘errors’ and worse from the climate sceptics’ media side.”

    In other words, some journalists will start asking pesky questions of the IPCC, and the IPCC don’t want that. So say bye-bye to the science paper, and say hello to CENSORSHIP. Is that part of “Science”?

    Speaking of censorship, did you know that Popular Science website has openly announced a new CENSORSHIP policy in which, even if you agree that global warming happens, your posts will be automatically DELETED from their online forum if you disagree that the global-warming is human-caused? Did you know that? Is that “Science”?

    Sheesh. The post you’re reading now would probably get me deleted. Yet they call themselves a “science magazine”, right?

    The LA Times also announced a new Censorship policy — ALL letters-to-the-editor that express doubts about Global Warming, will not be printed. No kidding. Not even Dr. Bengtsson, who’s among the top-tier climate-scientists, would get in. Censorship. Bullying.

    So I hope this helps a little, Dmj76. I apologize for being lengthy, but it’s a really serious situation. Here’s an article I’ve been reading:

  • The ASME’s magazine “Mechanical Engineering” has published multiple letters to the editor questioning climate science. However, the overall tone of the articles in the magazine is that climate change is real and we are part of the equation.

    Forgive me for using the expression, but “I am not a scientist.” However, it may be that many editors are starting to think that climate change denial is like believing in the Lock Ness Monster, Big Foot, Alien abductions – I will stop this list before I become offensive. If that is indeed what is happening, I think these editors are making a mistake, and that these voices need to be allowed to speak in the public space.

    It looks like we agree on this point, sort of.

  • I am quite concerned about the raging climate. It has nothing to do with what the godless tell us are the causes. It has everything to do with the fact that God is Speaking! It is laid out clearly in Revelation and throughout The Scriptures that the earth itself will “groan” under the weight of sin, and “natural” disasters will go from bad to worse. It is not chemicals and gases that are causing the problem. It is Sin and Rebellion against God! What is needed are not more regulations from godless men but rather repentance from sin and turning to God for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. God destroyed His earth before by water. Unless we repent we can expect more “climate change” and not in a good way.

  • Mark, claims of prediction in scripture like that are entirely specious. Look, anyone can make the general claim that bad stuff is gonna happen, including bad weather, and enough happens over time that eventually they will be right (and wrong) about that. With no specifics such as dates and specific climate events on those dates predicted in the bible, we can and should toss out your claims.

    Your statement also presents your god as a very punitive jerk.

    Part of what is really needed is better science education. And less religious nonsense such as what you just posted.

  • Sue, you’ve managed to get it perfectly wrong. Actually anyone can take a man made agenda, such as “climate change” or what was once called “global warming” (what happened to that label?????) and say that “Science” supports their claims. So called “science” in regards to creation and climate is nothing more than the promotion of godless agendas. We have a premise and now we will say that “science” supports it. lol Throughout all of history mankind has known that it is God Almighty who controls and often speaks through weather and earthquakes, and floods, and famines, etc. You are delusional. You have given yourself over to lies and delusions. Not only are you unashamed of it, but you are promoting it. Unless you repent and turn from your folly you will find out for yourself about what is real and what is delusion. But it will be too late.

  • The existence of Climate change, or global warming due to mankind’s activities is a judgment call. If there is a scientific consensus, then it is a proven scientific judgment. This article is about beliefs. Beliefs are also facts- political facts, not scientific facts.
    Addressing such a Climate change successfully will require a large political, social, economic, and scientific commitment, sustained over a long period. If recent history is any guide, this is extremely unlikely.The God-is-in-charge folks will not support any plan, nor will a great part of the developing world.
    A large economic committment will not soon be supported by another large group, including those of us who lack confidence that the political system will be up to the task.
    What to do? If we can do the cheap and easy win/win things first, like reduce pollution and increase efficiency at the local level, then perhaps we can begin to show that we are capable having a positive effect. I have watched our town go from the-world-is-my garbage-can mentality, to a society that blows a horn at those rare folks who litter in public. Next, perhaps we can get the local power company to replace our “in the national top ten polluting” coal fired power plant. Important charges like this are possible.
    My discouragement comes from seeing the taxpayer stuck with the bill for GM building the Volt, wasting more billions (and squandering good will) on high speed train construction, and also the entire ethanol fiasco. This sort of political corruption and obvious waste will destroy any chance of political success in the long run.

  • Mark, Sue was actually right on, sadly. You are obviously the deluded one here. Just to show one example of your own folly, try presenting any prediction of a modern exact date in the bible. There aren’t any.

    I’ll take science over your religious claptrap any day. Now go shuffle your grossly obese butt into your gas guzzler truck and crash it into another one of its kind so we get two off the roads at once.