Only 19 percent of self-identified evangelical Christians said they were absolutely sure that human actions were influencing the climate. (Image courtesy of Witthaya Phonsawat / FreeDigitalPhotos.net)
Younger generations in the U.S. are more likely to affirm human causation driving climate change and global warming than their elders, according to a Barna Group survey.
Forty-six percent of Millennials (born between 1984 and 2002) and 43 percent of Gen-Xers (1965 to 1983) said they were "absolutely sure" humans have caused climate issues, compared to 39 percent of Boomers (1946 to 1964) and 35 percent of Elders (1945 or earlier).
Faith tradition impacted responses, with only 19 percent of self-identified evangelical Christians saying they were absolutely sure that human actions were influencing the climate.
By comparison, 43 percent of all practicing Christians (attended church in the past month and affirmed faith as very important in their lives) and 53 percent of persons claiming no faith tradition affirmed this view.
Education level also influenced perspectives - 50 percent of college graduates affirmed that they are "absolutely sure" of human-induced climate change, while 41 percent of respondents with some college education and 36 percent of high school graduates did so.
When asked to indicate the best way to address climate change, responses were mixed.
"A plurality of U.S. adults (37 percent) agree that establishing renewable energy sources is the best way to fight climate change," Barna noted. "From there, however, consensus about limiting climate change is harder to find."
Twenty-three percent were unsure, followed by those affirming technological advances (14 percent), recycling and composting (12 percent), other means (7 percent) expanded public transportation (3 percent), carbon taxes (2 percent) and becoming a vegetarian (1 percent).
The study's author, Cory Maxwell-Coghlan, commented, "Even though most Americans believe climate change and global warming are due to the effects of human activities, it's clear that deep divides - generationally, politically and theologically - still exist."
"Faith leaders ... must be willing to occupy that 'messy middle,' urging their divided congregations to look beyond their seemingly irreconcilable differences to seek common ground over a shared concern for God's creation," he continued.
"Whether human-caused or not, seeking energy independence, preserving rainforests, creating more livable cities, and fighting for clean water and air are all good reasons to build coalitions across political and religious divides," Maxwell-Coghlan stated. "Preserving God's world for future generations is surely something we can agree on."
The full report is available here.
Editor's note: EthicsDaily.com has compiled resources for churches to better understand and discuss creation care and climate change at TheGreenBible.org.