In an article featuring American Academy of Religion (AAR) President Laurie Zoloth, the New York Times highlighted the release of PRRI’s climate change report, presented by CEO Robert P. Jones at AAR’s national meeting last month. Zoloth, a bioethist at Northwestern University, declared climate change the theme for AAR’s 2014 annual meeting because she believes it is “the core moral issue of our time.”
PRRI teamed up with AAR to release “Believers, Sympathizers, and Skeptics: Why Americans Are Conflicted about Climate Change, Environmental Policy, and Science” at the conference’s presidential plenary session, held in San Diego, Calif. on November 22. Deemed “riveting” by the New York Times, the event was led by PRRI CEO Robert P. Jones and included four esteemed panelists, one of whom was Zoloth.
The survey polled the public on the importance of climate change, how its impact will affect different international communities, if the recent severity of natural disasters was a signal of biblical “end times,” and what role the government should play in preventing climate change.
Most notably, race and religious affiliation divided Americans on many of these points. More than 7-in-10 Hispanic Americans are very (46 percent) or somewhat (25 percent) concerned about the impact of climate change, compared to less than half of white Americans who are very (23 percent) or somewhat (20 percent) concerned about climate change. Nearly three-quarters of Hispanic Catholics and religiously unaffiliated Americans also agree that climate change is a crisis (28 percent and 33 percent, respectively) or a major problem (45 percent and 40 percent, respectively), while less than half of white evangelical Protestants say that climate change is a crisis (13 percent) or a major problem (31 percent).
The New York Times article details how Zoloth is calling for a permanent “shmita,” or sabbatical from AAR’s national meeting beginning in 2021 for the sake of the planet, noting that, “Every year, each participant going to the meeting uses a quantum of carbon that is more than considerable. Air travel, staying in hotels, all of this creates a way of living on the earth that is carbon intensive. It could be otherwise.”