Climate change has urged national leaders from different social groups and sectors to speak up and encourage people to act on what is probably the biggest environmental issue of this generation. Among the most influential personas, who have expressed advocacy in saving the planet is Catholic leader, Pope Francis.
In a new report from Yale University and George Mason University, researchers surveyed Americans and American Catholics regarding the impact that Pope Francis has created on them in terms of their perception on climate change. Entitled "The Francis Effect: How Pope Francis changed the conversation about global warming," the report showed that 17 percent of all Americans and 35 percent of Catholics said that the Pope has influenced their personal views on climate change.
In June 2015, Pope Francis released his encyclical "Laudato Si," which is a letter encouraging Christians to communicate with another and with the entire humanity regarding the possible effects of climate change and other types of environmental perils.
In September 2015, the Pope visited the United States and had a meeting with high-ranked government officials and celebrated the Holy Mass with the Americans. During his five-day stay, the Pope urged countries to unite and address climate change.
As the Pope holds a high status as a global religious leader and many Americans are Catholics, the researchers of the survey assessed if the Pope's teachings had influence the views and opinions of Americans on climate change.
The survey correspondents were first interviewed in the spring of 2015 before the encyclical was issued, then again in the early part of October, after the Pope's visit to the U.S. The survey questions include beliefs, attitudes, perception and behaviors about global warming, as well as their policy preferences and views on Pope Francis.
The key results of the investigation showed that more Americans recognized that global warming is occurring, with the numbers rising from 62 percent in March to 66 percent in October for all Americans. American Catholics exhibited a 10-point rise from 64 percent in March to 74 percent in October.
More Americans were also found to have express worried feelings about climate change with rate increase of 51 percent to 59 percent in Americans and 53 percent to 64 percent in American Catholics.
More Americans also think that global warming has become tremendously essential to them personally. More participants also said that global warming will be hazardous to people in the U.S. and abroad, and it will cause harm to developing nations and to the future generations.
In reference to the Pope's message, the Americans were also found to more likely think that climate change is a moral, social fairness and religious issue.
The report also entails other interesting findings like public opinions about the Catholic leader, transformations of beliefs, feelings and ideas, as well as the people's moral reactions and support for environmental action.
"In this report we conclude that, over the past six months, Americans - especially Catholic Americans - became more engaged in and concerned about global warming," the authors concluded.