American Evangelicals and Climate Policy

by Emil Morhardt

How strongly are American evangelicals—who comprise a quarter of the adult US population—opposed to doing anything about climate change? Chaudoin et al. (2013), begin by citing previous research showing that many evangelicals are particularly resistant to any policies that would “…endanger the divine covenant on which the United States was built” and that might lead somehow to a single world government. Hence, the whole idea of an organization like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), run under the auspices of the United Nations, having any authority over actions of the United States would be anathema to them. This being the case, the authors thought perhaps that evangelicals would be more welcoming to domestic climate policy initiatives than to the US partaking in international ones, and it turned out that they were correct.

They based their research on an analysis of two national surveys touching on these issues; Would the respondents support binding international agreements to reduce GHG emissions along with new treaties and new monitoring institutions to make sure they were followed? Would the US economy be more competitive if it institutes measures to reduce GHGs? Would they support more tax incentive for renewable energy? Requiring automobiles to be more fuel-efficient? Increasing taxes on fossil fuels?

When not corrected for degree of political conservatism, self-identified evangelicals were considerably less supportive of all of these than were non-Christians and non-evangelicals; non-evangelicals were only a little less supportive than non-Christians. Maybe evangelicals were just more conservative in general, and religious beliefs played no part? Not so apparently. Self-identified conservatives were—across the board—less supportive than liberals, but conservative evangelicals were even less supportive of the international schemes.

The survey also identified factors contributing to skepticism about climate change, and religious convictions seem to play no part—evangelicals are no more or less skeptical than the population as a whole; perhaps unsurprisingly it is older conservatives with high incomes who are the most skeptical. More about that in another post.

Chaudoin, S., Smith, D.T., Urpelainen, J., 2013. American evangelicals and domestic versus international climate policy. The Review of International Organizations, 1-29.

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