Why Americans Believe That Fighting Climate Change Is A Moral Responsibility

Recently, Pope Francis has warned people on the moral consequences of their failure to act on the rising global temperatures which are expected to impact disproportionately on the lives of poor people. A Reuters/IPSOS poll was conducted on 2,827 Americans in February to gain measurement on the moral language and the intervention of the pope regarding the climate change debate. The results of the poll showed that a significant number of Americans (72%) believe that combating climate change is a moral obligation. It is also the obligation of world leaders to reduce carbon emissions.

The results show that appeals based on ethics would be the key in shifting the debate over climate change in the US between those who are demanding the reduction in carbon emissions and those who are resisting the responsibility. When climate change is viewed through a moral aspect, it appeals to the greater majority particularly since the debate in climate change is very intellectual with economic systems and scientific angles that the ordinary human does not understand.

Many Americans believe that the message of Pope Francis will resonate beyond the church and it may eventually reach the conservatives. In order to move forward, it is important to bring along the Republicans. Some Republicans are beginning to search for a new message on climate change so that they can distance themselves from those who are opposing the efforts in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

While the shifting moral responsibility can modify carbon-intensive lifestyles and assume the costs of weaning the US economy off fossil fuel, it remains to be seen because the US sales of trucks and SUV’s are increasing due to decline in gasoline prices.

The US Environmental Protection Agency is also using the language of climate justice in some its anti-pollution activities. This battle against climate change is like the 20th century battle for civil rights. Pope Francis is going to use the fight against climate change as the centerpiece of his papacy and being the head of the Catholic Church with 1.2 billion members, he may be able to push world leaders to deal with the United Nations-sponsored conference in Paris this December. The pope is confronting critics because human activities are responsible for the increase in global temperatures.


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