Are religious beliefs in the end of the world holding back climate change action in the U.S.?
A study from two researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Colorado, Boulder found there are "strong reasons" to suggest that widespread belief in "end-times" and a "Second Coming" of Christ could impact U.S. environmental policy.
Published online on May 1 in the journal Political Research Quarterly, the study used data from the 2007 Cooperative Congressional Election Studies. Survey respondents were asked to rate their support for "government action to curb global warming" on a four-point scale, and if they believed in "the Second Coming of Jesus Christ."
Authors David Barker and David Bearce found that 56 percent of Americans and 75 percent of Republicans answered "yes" to the latter question. Accounting for political ideology, belief in biblical authority, demographic factors and climate skepticism, the study found:
A belief in the Second Coming reduces the probability of strongly agreeing that the government should take action by more than 12 percent. In a corresponding manner, a belief in the Second Coming increases the probability of disagreeing with government action to curb global warming by more than 10 percent.
The authors propose that due to institutions such as the Electoral College and the Senate filibuster, "minority interests often successfully block majority preferences."
"Even if every Democrat in the country wanted to curb [greenhouse gas emissions]," they argue, Republican citizens' belief in the Second Coming could mean "stiff resistance" to government action.
Barker and Bearce also address what New York University's Dale Jamieson has called the "American Paradox" -- most people in the U.S. acknowledge climate change and identify with environmentalism, but far fewer are willing to alter their behavior or support government action to curb the effects of climate change.
Two 2013 national polls found that that a majority of Americans currently acknowledge that global warming is occurring, more due to the effects of human pollution than natural causes and already affecting U.S. weather.
Yet only 39 percent of respondents in an April HuffPost/YouGov poll said it was "very important" to "work to restore and enhance the natural environment." Only 29 percent said government spending on the environment should be increased.
Despite the results of the recent study, some progressive religious congregations in the U.S. are acknowledging climate change and promoting environmental stewardship.
The existence of ongoing and manmade climate change is accepted with near unanimity in peer-reviewed literature on the subject and acknowledged jointly by the national science academies of the G8+5 countries.