Climate Action’s Moral Majority

February 28, 2015

The stage is set for massive action on climate change –  a clear majority of Americans now see climate as a moral issue.

Below, a new poll by Reuters shows that two thirds of Americans believe their leaders are “morally obligated” to take action on climate.
Above, Climate Scientist Katharine Hayhoe states the case for  values-based communication when talking about climate – and I’ve interspersed here similar values based arguments from a variety of messengers.
Everything we’ve learned about science communication suggests that merely hearing the facts does not bring people around on the issue of climate change – what is most effective is connecting with people on an emotional level, a values level, as Dr. Hayhoe suggests, above.
Part of what is happening is that the planet itself is, for better or worse, now speaking clearly enough to amplify the message that scientists have been bringing.


A significant majority of Americans say combating climate change is a moral issue that obligates them – and world leaders – to reduce carbon emissions, a Reuters/IPSOS poll has found.

francisdove   The poll of 2,827 Americans was conducted in February to measure the impact of moral language, including interventions by Pope Francis, on the climate change debate. In recent months, the pope has warned about the moral consequences of failing to act on rising global temperatures, which are expected to disproportionately affect the lives of the world’s poor.

The result of the poll suggests that appeals based on ethics could be key to shifting the debate over climate change in the United States, where those demanding action to reduce carbon emissions and those who resist it are often at loggerheads.

Two-thirds of respondents (66 percent) said that world leaders are morally obligated to take action to reduce CO2 emissions. And 72 percent said they were “personally morally obligated” to do what they can in their daily lives to reduce emissions.

“When climate change is viewed through a moral lens it has broader appeal,” said Eric Sapp, executive director of the American Values Network, a grassroots organization that mobilizes faith-based communities on politics and policy issues.

“The climate debate can be very intellectual at times, all about economic systems and science we don’t understand. This makes it about us, our neighbors and about doing the right thing.”


Eden Keeper:

As a progressive Christian, I try to accept people where they are. As an environmentalist, though, I can get rather frustrated with people who use their own faith as a means of rejecting scientific evidence. I still remember a conversation with a seatmate on a plane, for instance, that ended with her claiming – with complete confidence, of course – that “God wouldn’t have put the oil in the ground if he didn’t want us to use it.” Fortunately, that flight was almost over, so I didn’t have to recover from my stunned silence, and argue that God had also created sunlight and wind…

Yep, religion and environmentalism can lead to cognitive dissonance. But not in every case, and not even in every case of conservative Christianity. The creation care movement makes a theological argument for environmentalism that works for many evangelicals, and many other rightward-leaning Christians view these issues through other lenses of their belief system, from national security to economic prosperity. So I wasn’t surprised to see the President of the Christian Coalition, Roberta Coombs, make a case for solar power last week on the organization’s blog.

Her argument combined all of the elements above, but focused particular on the issue of security:

Right now, the United States sends about a billion dollars a day to other countries to pay for what former President George W. Bush called our “addiction to oil.” Much of that money goes to countries that do not share our values. Some of the money goes to regimes that we would consider our enemies. There is evidence some of it ends up in the pockets of terrorists, and even funding our troops’ opponents on the battlefield.

I think she’s right; I also think she doesn’t go nearly far enough on this point. Oil and gas, for instance, must be transported, and create opportunities for enemies on the battlefield to disrupt supply lines. And climate change, a result of our over-dependence on fossil fuels, creates all sorts of security challenges, from migrating populations to conflicts over increasingly scarce resources.


30 Responses to “Climate Action’s Moral Majority”

  1. […] last week, the struggle for Fox News’ climate-denying soul has been breaking out in the open. The polling is clear that most Americans not only agree that climate change is happening, and that humans are the cause, […]

  2. […] smart enough to know better,  with funding to hire staff who certainly know that the majority of US voters are now concerned about climate change, and in favor of dealing with […]

  3. […] climate deniers know is that they are steadily losing the PR battle on climate.  Although they still  hold an edge in the congress, with Republicans almost unanimously in […]

  4. […] change, it’s bad, and we need to address it.  Now we’ve developed what I think is a bulletproof majority, that continues to grow as more people wake up to the planet’s ongoing tutorial on Planetary […]

  5. […] We already knew this, but more polling confirms – climate denial is going the way of cannibalism, slavery, child labor, female circumcision, homophobia,  and various other barbaric practices. […]

  6. […] A spate of recent climate related extreme events is underlining the growing impacts of climate change, as voters, including GOP voters, now look to be at an historic inflection point where climate change has become self evident, and support for solutions becomes a moral imperative. […]

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