Making It About Morals: Pope Francis Shifts the Climate Change Debate

27 Pages Posted: 11 Jul 2017

See all articles by Asheley Landrum

Asheley Landrum

College of Media & Communication, Texas Tech University

Robert Lull

California State University, Fresno

Heather Akin

University of Missouri at Columbia

Kathleen Hall Jamieson

University of Pennsylvania

Date Written: May 12, 2016

Abstract

In June 2015, Pope Francis released his papal encyclical, Laudato si’: On Care of our Common Home, urging global action toward climate change mitigation. The official Catholic document was widely praised for its unique rhetorical approach that emphasized climate change mitigation as a moral obligation shared among all people (Maxwell & Miller, 2015). As the spiritual leader of over 1 billion Catholics worldwide, Pope Francis was well-positioned not only to appeal to his followers’ moral sensibilities, but to instigate an even broader impact among non-Catholics.

Here we present two studies that examine the viability of its rhetorical strategy as a proximal metric of the encyclical’s success. In the first study, we used Moral Foundations Theory to analyze the text of Laudato si’ and categorize some of its moral arguments according to how those arguments might have appealed to different ideological groups. In the second study, we used nationally-representative survey data to examine to what extent these different ideological groups accepted the moral arguments offered in Laudato si’.

Keywords: Climate Change Communication, Climate Change Mitigation, Encyclical, Laudato si', Moral Foundations Theory, Pope Francis

Suggested Citation

Landrum, Asheley and Lull, Robert and Akin, Heather and Jamieson, Kathleen Hall, Making It About Morals: Pope Francis Shifts the Climate Change Debate (May 12, 2016). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2997490 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2997490

Asheley Landrum (Contact Author)

College of Media & Communication, Texas Tech University ( email )

3003 15th Street
Box 43082
Lubbock, TX 79409
United States

HOME PAGE: http://asheleylandrum.com

Robert Lull

California State University, Fresno ( email )

5241 North Maple Avenue
Fresno, CA 93740
United States

Heather Akin

University of Missouri at Columbia ( email )

332 Cornell Hall
Columbia, MO Columbia 65211
United States

Kathleen Hall Jamieson

University of Pennsylvania ( email )

Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

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