Most Americans Now Believe Fighting Climate Change Is A ‘Moral Obligation’

Climate change remains a contentious issue in American politics, but for those who may feel disheartened by the amount of opposition toward climate science, there is a bit of good news. According to a recent poll by Reuters, the majority of Americans believe that fighting climate change is a “moral obligation” and that everyone must do their part.

Though this poll says many things, perhaps the heaviest impact of the data is that it shows a large number of people acknowledge that climate change exists — and not only that, but admit that humans have a heavy hand in it. Despite the weight of scientific evidence behind climate change, many Americans have been hesitant to embrace it, often compromising by accepting it exists but saying that humans have nothing to do with it.

It doesn’t help that opposition to climate science is often opposed by mockery and derision, with people pointing to various examples of cold weather as though that disproves climate change entirely. Recently, Republican Senator Jim Inhofe brought a snowball to the Senate in response to a claim that 2014 was the warmest year on record. This failure to recognize the difference between weather and climate notwithstanding, the argument that isolated cold disproves all of climate change has been shockingly dominant in some media’s coverage of climate change.

According to the poll, 66 percent of the 2,827 respondents said that world leaders have a responsibility to reduce CO2 emissions, and 72 percent said they had a personal moral obligation to do what they can on a day-to-day basis to achieve the same ends.

But while a clear majority now believes that humans have a responsibility to fight climate change, the source of that reasoning varies. Science hasn’t quite won out; for many, it’s an issue of ethics. Eric Sapp, executive director of the American Values Network, explained that framing the issue in a different light is one way to help win people over.

“When climate change is viewed through a moral lens it has broader appeal. The climate debate can be very intellectual at times, all about economic systems and science we don’t understand. This makes it about us, our neighbors and about doing the right thing.”

While this approach appears to be effective in drawing more people to view fighting climate change as a responsibility, it comes with a little frustration for those hoping to convince people using scientific data. For some, a person’s reasoning may not matter, but for others, this may represent the still-present issue of science not having the authority and reach that it should.

If there is to be any more good news, it’s that climate change is becoming less of a partisan issue. According to a report from the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, a majority of moderate and liberal Republicans think global warming is happening, as well as 38 percent of conservative Republicans. In addition, 56 percent of Republicans “support regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant.”

The government may be slow to follow the climate change movement, but the momentum and majority are now there.

[Photo by David McNew/Getty Images]