A new poll on the eve of the UN’s climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, known as COP26, indicates that a majority of Americans – 59% -- consider the deteriorating climate a problem of high importance to them.
That’s up 10 percentage points from a similar survey in 2018.
That news should bring a smile to Pope Francis, whose encyclical Laudauto Si’, published six years ago, urged people and their governments around the world to show greater concern for the health of “our common home” – Earth.
It also affirms the focus of the Yeshua Institute – S3 Jesus-like Leadership, incorporating the roles of servant, steward and shepherd. “Climate change is the most fundamental stewardship issue facing the human race,” said Dr. Owen Phelps, the institute’s director. “Those who wish to lead like Jesus need to be leaders on this front.”
The new poll was conducted Sept. 8-24 by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus/minus 1.7 percentage points.
Among other findings of the survey:
- 75% believe that climate change is happening, while 10% believe that it is not; 15% are unsure.
- About 60% believe that the pace of global warming is speeding up.
- 55% of Americans want Congress to pass a bill to ensure that more of the nation’s electricity comes from clean energy and less from climate-damaging coal and natural gas; only 16% oppose it.
- 54% credited scientists’ voices as having a large amount of influence on their views about climate change; nearly as many, 51%, said their views were influenced by recent extreme weather events.
- 52% said they would support a $1 a month carbon fee on their energy bill to fight climate change -- but support declines as the fee increases.
Among those who say comate change is happening:
- 54% say that it’s caused mostly or entirely by human activities;
- 32% believe it’s a mix of human and natural factors; and,
- 14% think — incorrectly, scientists say — that it’s caused mainly by natural changes in the environment.
Majorities of members in both major political parties agree that climate change is happening -- 89% of Democrats and 57% of Republicans.
Pope calls for radical responses
Meanwhile, as the start of the UN conference on climate change neared, Pope Francis stepped into the fray again in a “Thought for the Day” recording for the BBC’s Radio 4, urging that world leaders respond to the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, climate change and economic issues with “vision and radical decisions.”
“We can confront these crises by retreating into isolationism, protectionism and exploitation, or we can see in them a real chance for change," the pope said.
He called for "a renewed sense of shared responsibility for our world", and said "each of us -- whoever and wherever we may be -- can play our own part in changing our collective response to the unprecedented threat of climate change and the degradation of our common home."
UK bishops warn that urgent action needed
As the UN conference began, the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales issued a statement Nov. 1 that said the environmental crisis is a Catholic issue because it is a universal issue. (The word “catholic” means “universal.”)
The message said the climate crisis affects everyone, and warned that if no action is taken, “we risk causing irreparable damage to God’s creation, the creation of which He made us the stewards.”
The bishops called for governments to maintain their commitment to keep the global temperature rise below 1.5 ° Celsius, and also insisted that governments “commit to supporting the world’s poorest nations, who often find themselves facing the worst effects of climate change despite having done the least to contribute towards it.”
The bishops added that as “a global community of more than a billion people,” the Catholic Church is at the forefront of fighting the ecological crisis.
“As Catholics, we have been given a very clear steer from Pope Francis about the importance of caring for our common home. In his 2015 encyclical Laudato Si’, His Holiness made it clear that to ‘harm the environment was to harm human beings.’ Therefore, it is an unassailable fact that the ecological crisis is one of the most pressing social justice issues of our time,” the message said.
“We know that we need to act globally to protect the biodiversity of this earth, and all of God’s creation that depends on it. The ecological crisis is a human crisis, and we must strive to find solutions that ensure that the communities most vulnerable to the impact of climate change are not left behind in the decisions made by our leaders in Glasgow,” it added.
Cardinal pledges church’s support
The bishops’ statement came days after Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the president of the bishops’ conference, wrote to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson to offer the Catholic Church’s support “as you work to accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.”
“The urgency of the global ecological crisis is increasingly recognized. It is indeed a dark cloud over humanity, a crisis which is both social and environmental,” the cardinal wrote on Oct. 27.
“As you will recognize, the Catholic faith calls us to care for our common home with all people of good will. During this last year we have been urging and demonstrating many excellent projects and initiatives, in so many parishes, schools and dioceses. They illustrate the impact which even the smallest actions can make on the challenge facing us and they inspire a hope that whilst the crisis is human made so too are its solutions,” Nichols added.
In his letter, the cardinal made three requests of the prime minister: For him to:
- support poorer and more vulnerable communities in the face of the devastating effects of climate change;
- take a lead in international efforts to develop and champion green energy solutions; and,
- do all he can to lead partnership between all nations in reducing harmful emissions and in keeping global warming to its stated goals.
Sisters and investors take up challenge
Just ahead of the conference, seven Catholic sister congregations announced that they are divesting from fossil fuels. Faith-based groups said it is their largest single divestment declaration to date.
The congregations joined the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Scotland as well as all eight Scottish archdioceses and dioceses in announcing their fossil-free commitment Oct. 26. Only one of the seven women’s religious groups is from the U.S. – the Benedictine Sisters of Erie, PA.
In all, 72 faith groups with more than $4.2 billion of combined assets declared their intention to divest from investments in the fossil fuel industry.
But that commitment to divestment was dwarfed by one from the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero, a group of 450 major financial institutions that pledged Nov. 3 to align their investments with the 2015 Paris climate accord, which calls for reducing carbon dioxide emissions and other efforts to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels.
The group, launched this year by former Bank of England chief Mark Carney, also promised to follow scientific guidelines for cutting carbon emissions to “net zero” by 2050. Member financial institutions manage $130 trillion in assets.