Making It About Morals: Pope Francis Shifts the Climate Change Debate
27 Pages Posted: 11 Jul 2017
Date Written: May 12, 2016
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
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