The extensive damage to an amusement park roller coaster in
the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy is seen in Seaside
Heights, New Jersey last month. REUTERS/Tom Mihalek
Nearly four in 10 US residents say the severity of recent
natural disasters such as Superstorm Sandy is evidence the
world is coming to an end, as predicted by the Bible, while
more than six in 10 blame it on climate change, according to a
The survey by the Public Religion Research Institute in
partnership with the Religion News Service found political
and religious disagreement on what is behind severe weather,
which this year has included extreme heat and drought.
Most Catholics (60 percent) and white non-evangelical
Protestants (65 percent) say they believe disasters like
hurricanes and floods are the result of climate change.
But nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of white evangelical
Protestants say they think the storms are evidence of the
"end times" as predicted by the Bible.
Overall, 36 percent point to end times and 63 percent to
PRRI research director Daniel Cox said that some respondents
- including 75 percent of non-white Protestants - believe
extreme weather is both evidence of end times and the result
of climate change.
"No one really knows how (end times) would look and how God
would bring it about," Cox said.
Politics also color perceptions of the weather, the survey
found. More than three-quarters of Democrats and six in 10
independents believe that the weather has become more extreme
over the last few years, while less than half of Republicans
say they have perceived such a shift.
"Their political leanings are even affecting how they
experience weather, which is pretty fascinating," said Cox.
The January-to-November period in the United States this year
was the warmest first 11 months of any year on record for the
contiguous states. And 2012 will likely surpass 1998 as the
warmest year on record for the nation, according to the
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
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Most climate scientists believe that the warming trend for
the nation and the world is tied to human activity, such as
the burning of fossil fuels.
Extreme storms like Sandy, along with more intense droughts,
wildfires and floods, are projected by some as the result of
climate change, though scientists are reluctant to attribute
individual events to global warming.
The PRRI survey found that while there is disagreement about
the causes of global warming, there is widespread agreement
about the need for action.
Two-thirds of Americans say the US government should do more
to address climate change - including most of those who
believe global warming is due to natural weather patterns,
the survey found.
It also found that 15 percent of Americans believe that the
end of the world, as predicted by the New Testament's Book of
Revelation, will occur in their lifetime. Some 2 percent
believe that the end of the world, as predicted by the
ancient Mayans, will occur by the end of this year.
Some people who say they believe in end times do not act on
that belief in their everyday lives, said Cal Jillson,
political science professor at Southern Methodist University.
"I think that's their way of expressing a deep commitment to
Biblical literalism," said Jillson. "If you sat down with
them and said, 'Do you really think that within the next few
years we'll experience the end times?' they probably don't
... . A good number of these people are saving for
The survey of 1,018 adults was conducted between Dec. 5 and
Dec. 9. The margin of error was plus or minus 3 percentage
(Reporting By Mary Wisniewski; Editing by Greg McCune and