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As climate change becomes a more central issue, more and more people are recognizing the importance of reducing their carbon footprints. (Photo: South Bend Voice/cc/flickr)

Majority of Americans Agree Fighting Climate Change a 'Moral Obligation'

New poll shows majority of Americans believe human activity causes rising greenhouse gases and that people are ethically responsible to address it

Nadia Prupis, staff writer

A majority of Americans believe they are "morally obligated" to fight climate change, a new poll by Reuters/IPSOS has found.

Of the 2,827 people surveyed in the poll, 66 percent said world leaders are ethically bound to reduce carbon emissions, while 72 percent believed that responsibility lay with themselves as well. In addition, 64 percent believe that rising greenhouse gases, which drive climate change, are caused by human activity.

The poll was conducted to parse the impact of moral language in the climate debate and the results suggest that an ethics-based appeal to address environmental issues may be the key to shifting the debate on the topic.

"When climate change is viewed through a moral lens it has broader appeal," Eric Sapp, executive director of the American Values Network, a grassroots organization that mobilizes faith-based communities on politics and policy issues, told Reuters.

"The climate debate can be very intellectual at times, all about economic systems and science we don’t understand," he continued. "This makes it about us, our neighbors and about doing the right thing."

The poll indicates Americans may be responding to recent comments on climate change by religious leaders, including Pope Francis, who in December urged all Catholics to take action against global warming on moral and scientific grounds as "Climate change, the loss of biodiversity and deforestation are already showing their devastating effects in the great cataclysms we witness." In January, he also said that it is "man who has slapped nature in the face."

Pope Francis also criticized world leaders ahead of environmental discussions in Lima, Peru last December for their lack of initiative in addressing climate change and other calamities, calling the issue a "grave ethical and moral responsibility" and warning that "the time to find global solutions is running out."

The pope is scheduled to address Congress later this year, where he is expected to deliver a similar appeal.


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