Survey results from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life released yesterday revealed that black Protestants, white evangelicals, and Catholics are more skeptical than the average American on the causes of global warming. While 47 percent of the U.S. population believes there's strong evidence that warming has mostly anthropogenic causes, just 34 percent of evangelicals surveyed believed the same, followed by 39 percent of black Protestants, and 44 percent of white Catholics. Those unaffiliated with religion and white mainline Protestants were much more likely to believe that warming was mostly man-made.
It's telling that these three religious categories also track off the mainstream path of U.S. thought on issues like abortion and marriage equality. But at closer glance, black Protestants generally appear more convinced that global warming is a problem than all the other religious categories. While only 39 percent of them believed it was driven by humans, 80 percent of them believe there is solid evidence that it exists at all -- meaning instead of believing it's mostly man-made they believe it exists mostly due to natural cycles, or they don't know what causes it. Compare that to the 58 percent of white evangelicals that believe it exists at all. For white Catholics, 72 percent believe it exists, 73 percent for white Protestants, and 75 percent for the unaffiliated.
Also worth noting, is that fewer black Protestants believe there is no evidence for warming whatsoever -- 15 percent -- than any other group (31 percent for evangelicals, 22 percent for white Catholics, 19 percent for white Protestants, 18 percent for unaffiliated).
While it's quite important to know the human causes of climate change for the sake of adaptation and mitigation -- meaning changing consumption habits and utilizing renewable energy sources -- there's still a lot to say for those who at least acknowledge it exists. As we move toward the midcentury when it's all but imperative that we cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80 percent (83% as called for in the Waxman-Markey climate bill proposal), it will be the global warming-deniers that the rest of us will have to pay for through drier summers, Arctic sea ice melt, floods, and crop destruction.
-- Brentin Mock
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