The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

A big reason climate change isn’t a priority: The apocalypse

A person dressed as a polar bear is interviewed while taking part in the Occupy Wall Street movement's protest in New York, New York, USA, 22 September 2014. Activists gathered in downtown Manhattan to participate in the Flood Wall Street protest ahead of the UN Climate Summit. (EPA/ANDREW KELLY)

If you want to understand how little urgency there is among the American public about climate change, consider this:

A new survey from the Public Religion Research Institute asked people about the severity of recent natural disasters. About six in 10 (62 percent) said climate change is at least partly to blame.  About half -- 49 percent -- cited the biblical end times (as in, the apocalypse) for the recent natural disasters. That latter number is up five points from 2011.

(People were allowed to volunteer more than one cause.)

Michelle Boorstein has the big run-down of all the numbers from the survey, and we would urge folks to check out her story. The end-times view is held by especially large numbers of white evangelical Christians (77 percent) and black Protestants (74 percent).

The fact that half of Americans cite the end times as a cause of recent severe weather events suggests a kind of fatalism that would certainly lead to less urgency when it comes to issues like climate change. Even many of those who believe in climate change -- and about one-quarter of Americans don't, per the survey -- seem to think natural disasters are part of something that is preordained.

In addition, 39 percent of Americans say God would not allow humans to destroy the Earth (53 percent disagree). So, apparently, most of those who believe we're in the end times also believe God would intervene. Basically at least four in 10 Americans see little reason for a human response -- or, at least, doubt things will wind up being catastrophic.

It should be no surprise, then, that of all the issues tested by PRRI's poll, climate change is viewed as the least important. Just 5 percent rate it as the No. 1 issue, behind things like immigration, education and the wealth gap.