Have Christians Crossed A Climate Change Tipping Point?

As weather weirdness gets wilder, Americans keep changing their lifestyles out of necessity and public attitudes about global warming are changing too. About 70% of our U.S. population are Christians, and they too are adjusting their views.

Since Pope Francis took an aggressive stance on global warming a few years back, the Yale Panel on Climate Change Communication (YPCCC) reports that due to “The Francis Effect” Catholics have increased their concerns about global warming and see it as a moral, social fairness, and a religious issue. According to the YPCCC survey, the growing Christian “care movement” is related to Christian values to protect the environment for our children and grandchildren and to protect God’s creation.

But the pope isn’t the only religious leader influencing conservative opinions. Climatologist Katharine Hayhoe is working hard to engage Evangelicals in understanding what they can do to take action as well.

Evangelical Christian Climatologist Katharine Hayhoe, Photo Courtesy of Jay Godwin, Public Domain

As a girl, Hayhoe was one of the brainy science and math kids who made science look easy to the rest of us. By the early 1990’s Hayhoe was studying physics and astronomy at the University of Toronto. She took a climate change class during her senior year with a professor who had just returned from doing the latest research at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). That experience completely changed her trajectory in life. She realized that she could use her background in physics to understand what was happening to the atmosphere, the oceans, and glaciers. She was quickly hooked. “I definitely didn’t realize that climate change wasn’t just an environmental issue — it’s a threat multiplier. It takes the most serious humanitarian issues … today — hunger, poverty, lack of access to clean water, injustice, refugee crises and more — and it makes them worse. How could I not devote my time to helping fix this huge global challenge?” She continued her studies with a Masters and then Ph.D. in climate science. Thus began her career path and commitment to educate people and help mitigate climate change. But lest you think she is just another scientist we need to look a bit deeper.

‘Christians And Climate: An Evangelical Call to Action’ on climate change has an Evangelical Climate Initiative Statement with over 200 Christian leader signatories. And other initiatives and alliances are forming to counter greenhouse gases, including the Faith Science Alliance for Climate Leadership with over 100 scientist and clergy signatories in Massachusetts.

Printed with permission from George Mason University and YPCCC

Back in 2015 the YPCCC and George Mason University data showed that 75% of Catholics, 70% of Protestants, and 60% of Evangelicals supported setting strict CO2 emission limits on existing coal-fired power plants in order to reduce warming and improve public health, even if it increased electricity costs to consumers.

Unfortunately, even though the number of Americans who believe global warming is getting worse is increasing, that hasn’t translated into political action to curb carbon yet. And clearly many people don’t realize the incredible impact that is happening already. (Yale) If Hayhoe and other leaders and organizations are successful in their efforts to educate and galvanize activism among the millions of Evangelical Christians in the U.S., and those activists vote on this issue, we may see very rapid changes.

Author of Vermont’s Ebenezer Allen: Patriot, Commando and Emancipator by Arcadia/The History Press, University of Vermont EdD.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store