Text excerpted from the book: PROTECTING THE PLANET-Environmental Champions from Conservation to Climate Change (ISBN 978-1-63388-225-6)
Budd Titlow & Mariah Tinger
On the upside of the still ever-present denier regime, Katharine Hayhoe came out of the closet in 2009. This outing involved the revelation that—as a devout Evangelical Christian, married to a church pastor—she was a staunch believer in Climate Change and the immediate need for the world to do something about it.
Actually, Hayhoe’s announcement was not all that surprising to many people who knew her as a Professor of Atmospheric Science and Director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University. Instead, the surprise hit Evangelicals throughout the Nation—many of whom steadfastly believed that Climate Change was just a liberal hoax.
Professor Hayhoe not only talked the talk but she walked the walk, producing a Conservative Christian landmark book entitled, A Climate for Change: Global Warming Facts for Faith-Based Decisions. The book won widespread praise, including from this rather unusual combination of bedfellows—religious leaders, fact-based scientists, and environmental activists. The book’s supporters included the past president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and the president of the National Wildlife Federation (NWF).
As an offshoot of her book, Director James Cameron recruited Professor Hayhoe to narrate and appear in portions of his Climate Change Showtime documentary, Years of Living Dangerously. She also parlayed her new-found reputation as a Climate Change expert into appearances on talk shows and at scientific conferences across the Nation.
Katharine Hayhoe—Unifier / Trailblazer
Professor Katharine Hayhoe is first and foremost, a Christian. She outlines her beliefs in no uncertain terms in her book A Climate for Change: Global Warming Facts for Faith-based Decisions written with her husband, Andrew Farley, a pastor at a Christian church in Texas. She worships the Creator of the universe, believes that God spoke the world into existence and sustains it by His power; that Jesus Christ is the way to eternal life, that the Bible is God’s Word, and that the message of the gospel is of the highest import.
Dr. Hayhoe also enumerates what she does not believe, “we don’t believe that life came from nothing or that humans evolved from apes. We don’t believe in government running our lives or in destroying the economy to save the Earth…”. One other really important thing that she does not believe in— Climate Change. When asked if she believes in Climate Change, she gave an ebullient laugh, smiled mischievously and exclaimed, “NO! I do not believe in Climate Change! Book of Hebrews: ‘Now Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen’[11:1, King James Version], science is the evidence of what we do see. As a scientist, I crunch the data. I study the world around us. I look at the projections to the future, I do not believe that the climate is changing, I know that it is, I know that humans are responsible, and I know that we have an important choice to make”.
For the faith-based community, which Hayhoe is deeply connected to, this is a critical distinction. When you ask someone if they “believe” in something, you are using faith-based language, in her opinion. By using this language, you are essentially offering people an alternate religion and then asking them if they believe in this alternate religion. More than eighty percent of people in the United States and six out of seven people worldwide have a religion already.
Hayhoe has made many important contributions to the science and study of global Climate Change. She is an atmospheric scientist who has authored more than sixty peer-reviewed publications and served as an expert reviewer for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fourth Assessment Report. Dr. Hayhoe has worked at Texas Tech since 2005 as an associate professor of political science and director of their Climate Science Center.
Hayhoe is policy agnostic as a scientist, in the sense that any solution is better than no solution. But as a human, not an expert, she thinks that we need to take the massive subsidies and taxes off of all of the different types of energy and put a price on carbon that equals the cost we are paying through taxes already. She asserts that the price we assign to carbon should account for the price we are already paying in terms of our health, in terms of crop insurance, in terms of FEMA bailouts and so forth. “We are paying those costs, make no mistake, but we need to be paying them in a direct way so that you and I, when we make our decisions about what car to buy, or how much energy to use, we can make that decision with the correct price signal”, Hayhoe explains.
The problem with this solution, according to Hayhoe, is “in the United States, politics has become so polarized that half the country would probably cut off their right arm rather than give the government any more power than it already has… Climate Change and its associated impacts and health issues has become a casualty of the polarization of society that has occurred over the last 30 years. People feel like it is incompatible with their identity and who they are to agree that we have to do these very common set of things [politically] …to have clean air, healthy kids, and avoid all of these health costs. We live in this polarized society where people won’t even admit something is true because they would have to give up who they are as a person.”
Something that decidedly does not work, is telling people that if they do not care about Climate Change, they do not have the right values. Find and understand their value system and then connect it to Climate Change issues. As a corollary to this, Hayhoe mentions that Climate Change is fully understandable without believing in evolution.
Professor, Author, and Climate Activist, Katharine Hayhoe standing with Actor Leonardo DiCaprio and President Barack Obama.
There is no need to ascribe a birth date to planet Earth to provide scientific evidence of Climate Change. “As we go back in Earth’s history, our satellite, thermometer, natural and written records consistently validate the dramatic and unprecedented nature of the recent increase in heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere. And this recent increase corresponds directly with the dawn and growth of our industrial age less than three hundred years ago.” So if evolution is something you support (as we, the authors, do), you can still connect with someone who believes in creationism using this bridge.
Author’s bio:For the past 50 years, professional ecologist and conservationist Budd Titlow has used his pen and camera to capture the awe and wonders of our natural world. His goal has always been to inspire others to both appreciate and enjoy what he sees. Now he has one main question: Can we save humankind’s place — within nature’s beauty — before it’s too late? Budd’s two latest award-winning books are dedicated to answering this perplexing dilemma. PROTECTING THE PLANET: Environmental Champions from Conservation to Climate Change, a non-fiction book, examines whether we still have the environmental heroes among us — harking back to such past heroes as Audubon, Hemenway, Muir, Douglas, Leopold, Brower, Carson, and Meadows — needed to accomplish this goal. Next, using fact-filled and entertaining story-telling, his latest book — COMING FULL CIRCLE: A Sweeping Saga of Conservation Stewardship Across America — provides the answers we all seek and need.Having published five books, more than 500 photo-essays, and 5,000 photographs, Budd Titlow lives with his music educator wife, Debby, in San Diego, California.