U.S. Catholics’ views on climate change and the environment

Catholic Climate Concerns: A Survey of US Attitudes

Pope Francis spoke to religious leaders at a meeting in Vatican City on Oct. 4, 2021, on the topic of “Faith and Science: Towards COP26” ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland. Throughout his decade-long leadership of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Francis has been vocal about climate change, even dedicating an encyclical to the issue in 2015 where he cited scientific evidence that the Earth is warming due to human activities and warned of the “serious consequences” of current trends.

However, not all Catholics in the United States share Pope Francis’ views on climate change. According to a 2022 Pew Research Center survey, views on the issue vary depending on political affiliation, race, ethnicity, and age. For example, 82% of Catholic Democrats or Democrat-leaning individuals say global climate change is a serious problem, while only 25% of Republican or Republican-leaning Catholics hold the same view. 71% of Hispanic Catholics see climate change as a serious problem, compared to 49% of White, non-Hispanic Catholics. Catholics aged 18 to 49 are more likely to be concerned about climate change than those aged 50 and above.

The Pew Research Center survey also found that, among U.S. adults, views on climate change are strongly tied to political affiliation. Democrats are far more likely than Republicans to view climate change as a serious problem. These differences are reflected in the views of Catholics as well. While Catholics are politically divided, white or older Catholics are more likely to be Republicans, while Hispanic or younger Catholics are more likely to be Democrats. Views on climate change also vary among different race and ethnic groups, with those who identify as a race or ethnicity other than non-Hispanic White being more likely to be concerned about the issue.

When it comes to the discussion of climate change in sermons, the 2022 Pew Research Center survey found that among Catholic service attenders, only 8% say there is a great deal or quite a bit of discussion on the topic, while 50% say there is either some or a little discussion. 41% of regular Mass attenders say there is no discussion of climate change.

Among Catholics who attend Mass at least monthly, 36% say they have heard at least a little about climate change in sermons, and these sermons often express the view that “we have a duty to care for God’s creation.” On the other hand, only 23% say sermons express “support for actions to limit the effects of climate change,” while 9% say they express “concern that policies aimed at reducing climate change give too much power to the government” and 8% say they express “the view that we don’t need to worry about climate change.”

Pope Francis’ message on the importance of addressing climate change and the environment is in line with the findings of numerous scientific studies and reports. In 2020, the United States government released its own report, “America’s Climate Future: The Need For Bold Action,” which highlights the urgency of taking action to address the impacts of climate change and outlines the steps needed to reduce emissions and build resilience. This report provides a comprehensive look at the science behind climate change and the impacts it is already having on communities across the country, and it underscores the need for immediate and sustained action. By reading “America’s Climate Future: The Need For Bold Action,” individuals can gain a deeper understanding of the impacts of climate change and the need for action to protect the future of our planet.