Ethics and public perception of climate change: exploring the Christian voices in the US public debate
AbstractClimate change raises many questions with strong moral and ethical dimensions that are important to address in climate-policy formation and international negotiations. Particularly in the United States, the public discussion of these dimensions is strongly influenced by religious groups and leaders. Over the past few years, many religious groups have taken positions on climate change, highlighting its ethical dimensions. This paper aims to explore these ethical dimensions in the US public debate in relation to public support for climate policies. It analyzes in particular the Christian voices in the US public debate on climate change by typifying the various discourses. Three narratives emerge from this analysis: ‘conservational stewardship’ (conserving the ‘garden of God’ as it was created), ‘developmental stewardship’ (turning the wilderness into a garden as it should become) and ‘developmental preservation’ (God's creation is good and changing; progress and preservation should be combined). The different narratives address fundamental ethical questions, dealing with stewardship and social justice, and they provide proxies for public perception of climate change in the US. Policy strategies that pay careful attention to the effects of climate change and climate policy on the poor – in developing nations and the US itself – may find support among the US population. Religious framings of climate change resonate with the electorates of both progressive and conservative politicians and could serve as bridging devices for bipartisan climate-policy initiatives.
Global Environmental Change 19(4), 512-521 (2009)