Year of Award
Master of Science (MS)
Department or School/College
College of Forestry and Conservation
Daniel Spencer, Laurie Yung
climate change, conservative Christianity, hermeneutics
University of Montana
Global climate change presents one of the most challenging ecological and social problems facing the world today. In order to prevent potentially harmful ecological and social impacts from rising global average temperatures, Americans will need to drastically reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 2050; our willingness to do so though is questionable as opinion poll data suggests that addressing climate change remains an extremely low priority for most Americans. Social scientists from across a variety of disciplines have suggested a number of reasons why this may be case; however very few have focused on the ways that religious beliefs are contributing to American perceptions of, and responses to, climate change despite the fact that opinion polls also indicate that conservative Christians are one of the most skeptical demographic cohorts in America when it comes to this particular issue. Recognizing that theologically conservative Christians compose a socially and politically influential population in America, this study investigates the relationship between conservative Christian faith and conservative Christian perceptions of climate change. Using data collected through 35 in-depth interviews with conservative Christians in Dallas, Texas and a hermeneutic approach to interview analysis, this study proposes first that conservative Christian faith does impact adherents’ perceptions of climate change. More specifically, the results of this study suggest five religious beliefs that appear to influence conservative Christians’ views on climate change; these beliefs include biblical inerrancy, God’s sovereignty, human sinfulness, eschatology, and evangelism. These five beliefs do not contribute to participant perceptions of climate change uniformly though. Rather the results suggest ways in which religious beliefs interact with other important factors, leading to a wide range of views on climate change in the sample. These perspectives on climate change range from complete dismissal of its existence to real concern and active engagement including lifestyle changes to reduce carbon emissions. Based on these findings, this study suggests several ways to proceed with both social science research on the intersection between religion and environmental issues and climate change advocacy geared at conservative faith communities.
Carr, Wylie Allen, "The Faithful Skeptics: Conservative Christian Religious Beliefs and Perceptions of Climate Change" (2010). Graduate Student Theses, Dissertations, & Professional Papers. 1013.
© Copyright 2010 Wylie Allen Carr