Nav: Home

Pope spurs Republicans to shift climate views

January 24, 2017

After Pope Francis framed climate change as a moral issue in his second encyclical, conservative Republicans shifted and began to see environmental dilemmas in the same way, according to a new study led by Cornell University communication researchers.

"When Pope Francis issued his encyclical paper in June 2015, he emerged as a strong advocate for climate action," said Jonathon P. Schuldt, assistant professor of communication. "He is in many ways uniquely positioned as a global moral authority - a religious authority - and his position is very visible."

Schuldt, along with Adam R. Pearson of Pomona College and Rainer Romero-Canyas and Dylan Larson-Konar, both of the Environmental Defense Fund, sought to understand a mechanism for changing public opinion about climate change. Their research, "Brief Exposure to Pope Francis Heightens Moral Beliefs About Climate Change," was published online in the journal Climatic Change, Dec. 30.

The pontiff addressed waste, culture and modern day ills in the encyclical. Climate change is a global problem with grave environmental, social, economic and political implications, the pope wrote. Many of the world's poor live in areas particularly affected by phenomena related to global warming, and their subsistence depends on keeping Earth healthy. They have few resources to help them adapt to climate change, the pope said.

For this research, more than 1,200 U.S. adults were asked for their moral beliefs about climate change. Half of those polled were briefly shown a photograph of the pope prior to answering questions, and the others were shown his picture afterward.

The researchers found that seeing the pope's picture before the belief questions increased and shifted moral perceptions of wide segments of the public, Schuldt said.

When answers were compared along party lines, the percentage of Republicans jumped the most. Of those who did not see the pope's picture prior to reporting their opinions, only 30 percent agreed that climate change is a moral issue. For Republicans who saw the pontiff's photo prior to the questions, this figure grew to 39 percent.

"On the whole, Republicans are less likely to see climate change as a moral issue. But, if they are shown a photo of the pope beforehand, they are more likely to," Schuldt said.

Democrats and progressives do not shift much on this issue, Schuldt said: "Most Democrats already see climate change as a moral and ethical issue. Republicans have more room to move."
-end-
Cornell University has television, ISDN and dedicated Skype/Google+ Hangout studios available for media interviews. For additional information, see this Cornell Chronicle story.

Cornell University

Related Climate Change Articles:

Fairy-wrens change breeding habits to cope with climate change
Warmer temperatures linked to climate change are having a big impact on the breeding habits of one of Australia's most recognisable bird species, according to researchers at The Australian National University (ANU).
Believing in climate change doesn't mean you are preparing for climate change, study finds
Notre Dame researchers found that although coastal homeowners may perceive a worsening of climate change-related hazards, these attitudes are largely unrelated to a homeowner's expectations of actual home damage.
Older forests resist change -- climate change, that is
Older forests in eastern North America are less vulnerable to climate change than younger forests, particularly for carbon storage, timber production, and biodiversity, new research finds.
Could climate change cause infertility?
A number of plant and animal species could find it increasingly difficult to reproduce if climate change worsens and global temperatures become more extreme -- a stark warning highlighted by new scientific research.
Predicting climate change
Thomas Crowther, ETH Zurich identifies long-disappeared forests available for restoration across the world.
Historical climate important for soil responses to future climate change
Researchers at Lund University in Sweden, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Amsterdam, examined how 18 years of drought affect the billions of vital bacteria that are hidden in the soil beneath our feet.
Can forests save us from climate change?
Additional climate benefits through sustainable forest management will be modest and local rather than global.
From crystals to climate: 'Gold standard' timeline links flood basalts to climate change
Princeton geologists used tiny zircon crystals found in volcanic ash to rewrite the timeline for the eruptions of the Columbia River flood basalts, a series of massive lava flows that coincided with an ancient global warming period 16 million years ago.
Think pink for a better view of climate change
A new study says pink noise may be the key to separating out natural climate variability from climate change that is influenced by human activity.
Climate taxes on agriculture could lead to more food insecurity than climate change itself
New IIASA-led research has found that a single climate mitigation scheme applied to all sectors, such as a global carbon tax, could have a serious impact on agriculture and result in far more widespread hunger and food insecurity than the direct impacts of climate change.
More Climate Change News and Climate Change Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Rethinking Anger
Anger is universal and complex: it can be quiet, festering, justified, vengeful, and destructive. This hour, TED speakers explore the many sides of anger, why we need it, and who's allowed to feel it. Guests include psychologists Ryan Martin and Russell Kolts, writer Soraya Chemaly, former talk radio host Lisa Fritsch, and business professor Dan Moshavi.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#538 Nobels and Astrophysics
This week we start with this year's physics Nobel Prize awarded to Jim Peebles, Michel Mayor, and Didier Queloz and finish with a discussion of the Nobel Prizes as a way to award and highlight important science. Are they still relevant? When science breakthroughs are built on the backs of hundreds -- and sometimes thousands -- of people's hard work, how do you pick just three to highlight? Join host Rachelle Saunders and astrophysicist, author, and science communicator Ethan Siegel for their chat about astrophysics and Nobel Prizes.