Christians in the United States have become less concerned about the environment, analysis of 20-plus years of opinion polls has revealed.
Despite high-profile calls to action, environmentalism is not increasing among those of Christian faiths, with signs of decline, the research found.
Indiana University associate professor David Konisky analysed Gallup public opinion polls from 1990 to 2015 and found Christians were less likely to prioritise environmental protection over economic growth than atheists, agnostics or individuals who did not affiliate with a religion.
In 25 years, Christians expressing a great deal of concern about climate change has also decreased by a third. The findings held true for Catholics, Protestants and other Christian denominations, and was not affected by level of religiosity.
“This relationship between religion and the environment is significant because of the increasing importance of climate change,” Dr Konisky said.
“There may come a time when religious leaders and faith-based organisations generate more interest in protecting the environment and more willingness to demand action, but we haven’t seen it yet.”
Dr Konisky did note, however, that high-profile religious calls for action on the environment, such as Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical, were relatively recent events, though said there was also a documented historical divide in how Christians viewed their relationship to the planet that could help to explain the results.
“Some believe in the importance of stewardship and practice an ethic of ‘creation care’, while others believe in human dominion over the Earth, a belief that undermines any obligation to protect the environment,” he said.
Dr Konisky said more research was needed to determine whether a belief in “human dominion” or other factors were causing reduced concern for the environment overall.
In recent years in Australia, faith-based organisations have been calling for greater action on climate change.