Pope Francis’ highly anticipated encyclical on the environment comes out on June 18. The letter’s novelty plays into its appeal; not only is it Pope Francis’ first encyclical, it will also be the first encyclical on the environment in the history of the Catholic Church.
To better understand Catholics’ views on the environment and climate change, PRRI put together five key findings from our recent climate change survey, conducted in partnership with the American Academy of Religion (AAR). Overall, Catholic attitudes largely mirror those of Americans overall—but there are sharp divides between Hispanic and white Catholics in their understanding of about climate change, the concerns they express about it and support for various policies to address it.
(1) White Catholics are twice as likely as Hispanic Catholics to say climate change is NOT happening. White Catholics are more than twice as likely as Hispanic Catholics to express doubts about the existence of climate change (34 percent vs. 15 percent).
Hispanic Catholics (61 percent) are much more likely than white Catholics (40 percent) to say that the earth is warming and this change is due to human activity.
(2) Hispanic Catholics are more likely to express concern over the severity of climate change. While similar numbers of Americans and Catholics overall agree on the severity of climate change, white Catholics express far less concern. Nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of Hispanic Catholics say that climate change constitutes a crisis or a major problem, while only 53 percent of white Catholics say the same.
(3) Hispanic Catholics are about three times more likely to believe they’ll be personally impacted by climate change. Forty-three percent of Hispanic Catholics believe they will personally experience the impacts of climate change, compared to only 13 percent of white Catholics.
Hispanic Catholics are twice as likely as their white counterparts to say that climate change will impact Americans a great deal—45 percent vs. 22 percent. Hispanic Catholics are also more likely to say that poorer developing countries will experience a great deal of harm (57 percent vs. 45 percent) as a result of increasing temperatures.
For more on how Americans think they’ll be impacted, see our longer post on the issue.
(4) Hispanic Catholics are much more likely to hear about climate change in church. Seven in ten (70 percent) Hispanic Catholics report that their clergy leader speaks about the issue of climate change at least occasionally. In contrast, only one in five (20 percent) white Catholics report hearing about the issue of climate change in church this often. Overall, relatively few Americans report hearing about climate change in their place of worship.
(5) Hispanic Catholics are far more likely to believe there is a scientific consensus about climate change. More than six in ten (61 percent) Hispanic Catholics say that scientists are in agreement about the causes of climate change—human activity. Only 39 percent of white Catholics believe that scientists agree humans are largely responsible for increasing temperatures on earth, while nearly as many (36 percent) say scientists are divided. In comparison, less than half (48 percent) of the American public believes that scientists generally agree that the earth is getting warmer due to human activity.
To learn more, including how Catholics’ views compare to other religious groups, see our full report on the findings from the landmark PRRI/AAR Religion, Values, and Climate Change Survey.