More than 40 Catholic institutions announced plans to divest from fossil fuels on Tuesday, the eve of the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi. The move aligns with Pope Francis’ rhetoric on climate change and better positions the church as an influential leader on sustainability, according to a Cornell University expert.
Jonathon Schuldt, an assistant professor of communication at Cornell University, has researched how Pope Francis has influenced public opinion on climate change. He says the institution’s divestments from fossil fuels are likely to give the Catholic Church a more “persuasive voice” on sustainability.
“The recent announcement that the Catholic Church is making significant fossil fuel divestments signals that the church is taking seriously Pope Francis’ calls for action to better protect the environment.
“If you look at public opinion data, the evidence suggests that the pope’s 2015 encyclical letter on the need for the global community to be better stewards of the environment has led to increased concern about climate change — even in places like the U.S., where concern among Republicans and other groups has historically lagged.
“Through these concrete actions that match the rhetoric, Pope Francis and the church may gain an even stronger and more persuasive voice on climate change and sustainability issues in years to come.”