When It Comes to Climate Change, Catholics Get It

According to a recent Zogby telephone survey of over 1000 American Catholics, 55% agree that climate change is a serious problem, versus 22% who do not.

Catholics in the U.S. are also clear on climate science, with 60% recognizing that human activity is a significant contributor to climate change versus 21% who do not believe that. These results are interesting at a time when, according to a Gallup poll, 41% of the overall population believes that the issue of global warming is being exaggerated by the media, despite that according to scientists and journalism scholars, the media has actually underplayed the seriousness of the issue.

Catholicism has a history of finding the intersections between science and faith and climate science offers just such an opportunity. This is particularly true when environmental interests are framed as protecting God’s creation, with three-quarters of Catholics embracing the concept of stewardship of the planet.

And consistent with the longstanding Catholic tradition of concern about the poor, the Zogby poll shows that there is particular worry about the impact of climate change on the poor, both in the U.S. and globally, with almost two-thirds surveyed believing that their faith requires them to be concerned about the effects of global warming on the most vulnerable communities.

It may also explain why more than half of Catholics surveyed believe that wealthier nations have a special obligation to help poorer countries deal with the repercussions of climate change.

Dan Misleh, Executive Director of Catholic Climate Covenant sees Catholic concerns about the environment as very consistent with their upbringing. “Before earth day, there was Genesis and the story of creation. Before St. Francis was the darling of some in the environmental movement, he was a man of deep religious conviction who understood the beauty of all of God’s creatures and that sharing in the lot of the poor people of his day is what God intended and consistent with Jesus’ own life. These teachings, examples and convictions are at the core of our Catholic faith and as climate change unfolds, we are recovering those ancient texts and traditions. In addition, Catholics have a long history of serving those in need…we know the impact of poverty and can see how climate change adds another sad layer to the lives of the most vulnerable that we serve.”

Even Misleh, though, was surprised at how many Catholics (1/3) are aware of Pope Benedict’s teachings and of those, that 90% want to learn more. The position that the Pope and the U.S. Bishops have taken on climate change is one of ‘prudent action in the face of uncertainty’. The majority of Catholics agree with this policy and would like to see immediate action rather than more research and study.

An astonishing 85% of Catholics believe in the church’s teachings about sharing and sacrifice in general and two-thirds believe that material concerns should not supersede concern for others and the environment. More than half of Catholics surveyed believe that a willingness to sacrifice and conserve could help address climate change.

Like everyone else in our society, people are hearing the message that we need to reduce energy use and try to live more simply,” says Dan Misleh. “For many it is about economics, how can they save some money. For others, they’re caught up in the green movement, not a bad thing. But I believe, too, that Catholic families are concerned about future generations and the shape of the planet for their children and grandchildren. And from an early age, we are taught to be charitable and to stand up for those without a voice in our society.”

The Catholic Climate Covenant is asking Catholics to take the St. Francis Pledge to care for creation and the poor, and many are doing just that.

Misleh says “it’s heartening to know that Catholics feel strongly that they can make a difference in lowering their carbon footprint. Large majorities have or are willing to pray, learn, assess, act and advocate which are the elements of the St. Francis Pledge. And a majority are willing to make sacrifices, exercise restraint and share more of what they have with those who have too little.” In fact the Zogby survey shows that large majorities (87% - 94%) of Catholics are already or willing to engage in most of these activities. The number comes down (68%) when it comes to advocacy, but it still remains a strong majority of Catholics already or willing to speak out publicly about climate issues.

The Catholic Climate Covenant is part of the National Religious Partnership for the Environment founded in 1992. Other members include the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the National Council of Churches, the Evangelical Environmental Network and the Committee on Environment and Jewish Life.

According to Misleh, these organizations work closely together on public policy issues and share concerns that climate change legislation must have provisions for new resources to help with rising costs due to energy constraints, job loss during transition to a more renewable energy system and for adaptation to climate change impacts in the poorest countries around the world.

Tom Stang, the brother of Sister Dorothy Stang, the Catholic nun murdered in 2005 for her work on behalf of the Brazilian poor and in protection of the Amazon rainforest from illegal ranching and logging, said of his sister recently that although people would like to paint her as a radical environmentalist, a liberation theologist and a socialist, she was actually simply a true daughter of the Catholic church. The Zogby poll reinforces that Sister Dorothy’s environmental concerns were very much in step with the views of the majority of American Catholics and were, as her brother claimed, an outward manifestation of her Catholic faith.


when he acknowledges that population control runs neck-and-neck with emissions control as the answer to saving humankind on this planet.


Let me be clear that I don’t mean legislated population control etc.  I just wish the pope would change his policies on allowing (or rather NOT allowing) birth control! 

I agree somewhat with you on this.  Completely on the last point, but not so sure on the first.  Overpopulation is one of the reasons for rising emissions.  If the world’s population weren’t nearing 7 billion and rising at an accelerating rate and instead was more or less stabilized around 4 or 5 billion, then GHGs wouldn’t be so elevated today.  However, since we cannot go back to the past, we must tackle this problem with the scenario we are in right now.

Most population scientists, including the UNPFA, are now concerned with UNDERpopulation not overpopulation. The consensus view is that population will average out at around 9-10 billion souls, well within the sustainability of the planet.

On a more worrisome point, in much of the West, except the US, the fertility rate is well below replacement (2.1 children per woman) meaning that unless something changes, countries like Italy, France, the UK, and Japan will not have enough young workers entering the workforce to sustain the economy.  In Japan, they’re already closing primary schools because there aren’t enough children.  Think the “Children of Men” scenario.

Women do not do well in “population control” societies. A generation of population control in China has meant forced abortions and sterilizations of women.  Women have to go in for mandatory pregnancy tests every 3 months, and if they are found to be pregnant without permission, are coerced into aborting their child.  As if that weren’t bad enough, China will go off a demographic cliff in 30 years because they will have an “upside down” population with an unsustainable amount of elderly and not enough young people to replace them in the workforce and make the next generation of Chinese.  Because of the one-child policy, China has too many men…sons are preferred.  Not a good scenario.  A similar experience, albiet on a smaller scale, happened in Latin America. 

As for the Catholic teaching on birth control…it is derived from the Gospel and historical Christian teaching on our understanding of marriage as a Sacrament.  It’s not the “pope’s policy” any more than the Catholic teaching on the Eucharist is.  A point of clarification…the Church doesn’t teach Catholics they cannot space/plan births…the Church teaches that doing so artificially by using “barriers” (e.g. condoms) or “temporary chemical sterilization” (the “Pill”) is a violation of the dignity of the human person and marriage.  Furthermore, the “pill” can act as an abortificient by chemically aborting a human embryo by preventing implantation, which we believe is the killing of a human person.

The Church approves of Natural Family Planning where the husband and wife work together with the woman’s natural fertility cycle to space births according to the needs of the family and the couple.  As an aside…NFP is 100% effective when used properly, a rate no artificial contraceptive can match, and has none of the side effects that artificial contraceptives have.  Mother Teresa of Calcutta was teaching the techniques to the poor women of New Dehli with great success.

A fuller discussion, if someone is interested, is here:


Peace to you all.

Mickey, I support your rights to religious belief.  I will not comment greatly on contraceptives and other issues relating to Catholic doctrine on this blog, as I believe this blog should be used to advance the scientific and environmental discussion, but also because I am not Catholic (I have a differing view about birth control).

However, as it relates to the environment, the carrying capacity of the planet is roughly 5.5 billion people, meaning that the amount of food grown on Earth will adequately feed 5.5 billion if perfectly distributed.  Any additional people beyond 5.5 billion would render the planet unable to accommodate them.  Also, with growing populations and growing cities and dwindling resources, the carrying capacity will decrease over time, meaning that future sustainable populations will decrease with decreasing resources and arable land.


I’m not Catholic but it’s still nice to hear that a lot of people are concerned about the climate change. If the world is a mirror of those who inhabit it, what can the issue of climate change tell us about ourselves? There is a lot of talk these days about climate change and global warming. We hear predictions of everything from the melting of the ice caps leading to a rise of the ocean level enough to flood New York City and other low-lying areas, to a sudden change in the Gulf Stream that would usher in a new ice age, to complete silence. Some give timelines of a thousand years’ transition. Others tell us it could happen much more rapidly in two to five. Some say it isn’t going to happen at all. We should act now before it’s too late. 

As he tours Washington and New York on his first visit to the United States since ascending to the papacy, Pope Benedict XVI will be greeted by a Catholic population that, while undergoing rapid ethnic and demographic changes within itself, continues to occupy a unique spot in the global Catholic community.


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According to a recent Zogby telephone survey of over 1000 American Catholics, 55% agree that climate change is a serious problem, versus 22% who do not.Catholics in the U.S. are also clear on climate science, with 60% recognizing that human activity is a significant contributor to climate change versus 21% who do not believe that.


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Climate change and the vital importance of protecting God’s creation is going to be the focus of a major campaign opening in 2009 and coordinated through the Catholic Coalition on Climate Change. regards, Model Trains

Climate change is already happening and represents one of the greatest environmental, social and economic threats facing the planet. Weather Centre aims to inform people about the potential changes in our weather in the coming 100 years. link building services

As faithful Catholics, we have a moral obligation to care for both Creation and the poor. Pope Benedict XVI insists, “Before it is too late, it is necessary to make courageous decisions” to curb climate change. health insurance leads

Although the Bush administration continues to exploit September 11 to justify domestic spying, unprecedented spending and a permanent state of war, a new Zogby poll reveals that less than half of the American public trusts the official 9/11 story or believes the attacks were adequately investigated.

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Catholic Coalition on Climate Change supports and complements USCCB’s Office of Social Development and World Peace and the bishops’ Environmental Justice Program. The Coalition is funded with generous assistance from the National Religious Partnership for the Environment,
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I am a university student doing research on climate change as part of my final exams. Although, i ‘m not a practising Roman catholic (My parents were), i ‘m very pleased to hear how a lot of people are concerned about climate change - including the Catholics. Climate change is a serious issue and one bold and immediate step to take is solar or alternative energy.

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This is an issue that could impact everyone whatever their religion. As the views expressed in the survey shows mirrors the belief that wealthy nations have an obligation to act on the issue.