Climate-Concerned, Highly Religious Americans Are Diverse

Climate-Concerned, Highly Religious Americans Are Diverse

Photo illustration collage of a church stained glass window surrounded by radiant window shapes filled with a satellite image of Hurricane Wilma

Photo illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios. Photo: Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Highly religious Americans concerned about warming temperatures around the world are racially and ethnically diverse, according to survey results from a recent Pew Research Center report.

The big picture: While few very religious Americans say they are concerned about climate change, people of color largely make up the share of people who express concern. Experts say this reflects a highly politicized issue – and a function of who is most burdened by global warming.

By the numbers: According to the report, only 8% of American adults are both very religious and very concerned about climate change.

  • “Very religious” is defined as those who say they pray every day, attend religious services regularly, and consider religion very important in their lives.
  • 47% of respondents who are both very religious and worried about climate change are white, 27% are black, 18% are Hispanic and 5% are Asian.
  • Meanwhile, Americans who are highly religious and unconcerned about climate change are 79% white, 9% black, 7% Hispanic and 2% Asian.

What they found: According to Pew Research Center senior researcher Becka Alper, who led the report, their findings underscore that the main driver of American public opinion on climate change is “party politics, not religion.”

  • They also found patterns that reveal political leanings within religious groups, which the report describes as overlapping with “similar racial gaps between Democrats and Republicans.”
  • “Highly religious Americans are more likely than others to identify with or lean toward the Republican Party, and Republicans tend to be much less likely than Democrats to believe that human activities, such as fuel burning fossils, [are] warming of the earth, or to consider climate change as a serious problem,” Alper tells Axios.

What they say : Nadia Ahmad, an associate professor of environmental law at Barry University and co-chair of the Democratic National Committee’s Interfaith Council, says the racial and partisan divide among religious respondents to the survey comes as no surprise.

  • “Because of historical inequalities, frontline communities, whether indigenous, poor, or communities of color, have experienced both climate change, environmental toxicity, and pollutions in more conscious ways. than those that are not,” Ahmad said. .
  • “They would be more exposed to pollution and toxicity and would suffer more of the adverse effects of climate change. And so their religious beliefs would correlate.”

To note : According to the report, nearly half of regular service attendees never hear about climate change from the pulpit in their places of worship.

  • A 2021 study in the journal Environmental Research Letters found that between 2014 and 2019, a large majority of U.S. Catholic bishops were “silent” and “deniers” in their messages to parishioners on climate change and Pope Francis’ encyclical.

Yes, but: A clear majority of members of historically black Protestant churches, as well as most non-Christian faiths, said they view climate change as an “extremely” or “very important” issue, while evangelical Protestants are the least likely to share these views, demonstrating a divide interfaith.

  • Black churches have a long history of engaging with issues such as climate change in the fight for racial equality, says Joshua Bartholomew, theological ethicist and assistant professor at Saint Paul School of Theology in Kansas.
  • “Black church people led this, they rallied around these things, even in politics,” Bartholomew said. “Racism, poverty, environmental justice, these things are not separate issues. They are all interconnected.”

The bottom line: “Ignoring environmental concerns means neglecting the very thing that none of us can escape,” Bartholomew said. “When preachers, when churches don’t pay enough attention to it, I think it does a disservice to their ministries.”

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