Climate change has become one of the most ideological issues of the day, with beliefs hardened according to political attitudes. But Pope Francis appears to be pulling off the miracle of actually changing people’s minds, per the Christian Science Monitor:
In 2015, on the eve of the release of Pope Francis’s encyclical [on climate change], research showed that Catholics in the United States were divided over global warming. Their differences mirrored the partisan divide found among much of the population, with around 80 percent of Catholic Democrats claiming there is solid evidence that the Earth is warming, and only half of Catholic Republicans claiming the same. Meanwhile, around 60 percent of Catholic Democrats said that global warming is a serious, man-made problem, while just a quarter of Catholic Republicans agreed.
But over the past year, perceptions began to shift. Just 6 months after the release of Laudato Si, the percentage of American Catholics who thought climate change is a moral issue jumped from 34 percent to 42 percent, according to a study conducted by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication. Meanwhile, a study released by the Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies at the Catholic University of America found that Catholic Republicans who read Laudato Si were 10 percent more likely to agree that human activities are responsible for climate change.
So we can add that to the arsenal of strategies for overcoming resistance to the science: get more religious authorities to speak out on climate change.
The issue is rightly framed as a moral one, given how vulnerable communities will be most likely to face the worst impacts of extreme weather wrought by a warming planet.