Katharine Hayhoe: A leading climate scientist, and an evangelical
WN: Sadly, faith and politics have been a toxic mix that has led to enormous denialism (like Holocaust deniers) in the Plymouth Brethren/evangelical communities Hayhoe was raised in. Her appeal to Christians to embrace what Catholics call “a preferential option for the poor” is to be noted over against for instance the depiction of evangelical deniers in this article: “How Fossil Fuel Money Made Climate Change Denial the Word of God“.
A recent interview, “‘This is not going to end well’: Author Barbara Kingsolver on climate change“, by Anna Maria Tremonti on The Current program (CBC – Canadian Broadcasting Commission) underscores the dire emergency. In it we learn that annually now, we humans voraciously use 125% of the earth’s resources. This is utterly unsustainable – and will have catastrophic consequences on just about every scale, from continuing extreme climate blow-outs to gargantuan flooding of coastal cities to greatly exacerbated international conflicts, amongst other disasters.
May conferences and presentations multiply in Christian communities such as the recent conference I attended, “A Sacramental Approach to Ecology” (Trinity Western University – contact: Chris.Morrissey@twu.ca) – that help change the tide of Christian opinion, and motivate to urgent prayer and action! May God have mercy.
Having been influenced by many of her family forebears to appreciate nature and the need for people to care for it, Hayhoe entered the climate change field, recognizing it carries “a lot of baggage.”
Much of that baggage revolves around political and religious polarization on the issue, particularly in some parts of the United States. In a PBS interview with Bill Moyers, she spoke about the emphasis many pastors in drought-ridden West Texas have, simply, on “praying for rain.” They do so, she suggested, without recognizing the role human-related climate change might have on their predicament.
During the Bill Moyers interview she said:
Caring about climate is entirely consistent with who we are as Christians. But over the last several decades . . . we have increasingly begun to confound our politics with our faith. To the point where instead of our faith dictating our attitudes on political and social issues, we are instead allowing our political party to dictate our attitude on issues that are clearly consistent with who we are. . . .
Climate change is a casualty of much larger societal issues. If we can get past the issue of rhetoric and politics, and actually start talking about what’s in our hearts, I have seen amazing things happen in terms of moving forward to look at solutions that are consistent with the values that we have.
Hayhoe has built her influence in the faith-science discussion, in part, by declining to participate in combative media debates that pit pro- and anti-climate changers with each other. She is mildly but clearly critical of people who view climate science sceptically from a conservative perspective and choose to stand apart from the discussion, throwing stones, so to speak, at those who differ. Conservatives, in their own right have valid perspectives, she said, adding that they need to bring those perspectives to the discussion table, rather than lobbing them from beyond the rim.
In fact, she points to a group with which she readily identifies, which has a growing presence in Canada, Citizen’s Climate Lobby. The website for that group contains a strategic guide which summarizes the approach Hayhoe tries to follow in acquainting people who might otherwise be ‘enemies’ with facts and information about climate science.
In our interview, Hayhoe made three points for consideration.
- She notes that China, despite the size of its environmental ‘footprint,’ is taking action on wind and solar energy that North Americans would do well to take note of. Our per-person emissions remain higher than China’s, she maintains.
- For Christians, the climate change issue “is not simply about the planet or the polar bear. It is about loving people. Canadians all know people from different parts of the world and wherever we live we are being affected by our changing climate.”
- “Science takes us so far. But it cannot make a choice for us. Our values are what we use to make our choices. That is why faith is important. Doing something about climate change is about loving others as Christ loves us.”
In the months following our interview, Hayhoe lectured at several other Canadian colleges and universities, many of them Christian – including Regent College.
Authored by Charlie Gillis, the November 9, 2015 Maclean’s piece was entitled “One Canadian’s quest to use Scripture to help sell climate science: White evangelical Protestants are the group least like to believe in climate change. So in America, Katharine Hayhoe is setting out to change that.”
In the process of telling her faith-science narrative, Gillis laid out Hayhoe’s credentials in the climate science field. He noted:
The 43 year old PhD made her name building localized statistical models (“downscaling,” in the argot of her field), which governments from California to Massachusetts use to prepare for a future onslaught of drought, or unprecedented rainfall. She currently heads up the Climate Science Center of Texas Tech University in Lubbock, and has contributed to reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. Later this month, she’ll appear at the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris on behalf of the Union of Concerned Scientists, a 46 year old organization devoted to promoting a healthier, safer planet. [For the record, she did appear and continues to be interviewed widely on the basis of her exposure there.]
Please click on: Katharine Hayhoe