Katharine Hayhoe: Evangelical Christian, Climate Scientist
As an evangelical scientist, Katharine Hayhoe is already a member of a rare breed. As a climate change researcher who is also married to an evangelical Christian pastor, she is nearly one of a kind. In these three videos, Hayhoe divulges her beliefs about God, climate change, and the difficulties of believing in both those things.
The first video, “10 Questions with Katherine Hayhoe”, introduces the scientist in a brief and lighthearted interview. Hayhoe is presented with 10 questions concerning her personal life and beliefs. When asked, she explains that one thing people should know about Christianity is that having a relationship with the God of the universe is one of the most incredible experiences that a person can have. As the video unfolds, the viewer quickly begins to realize that, despite her unique profession of two seemingly incompatible beliefs, Hayhoe is a remarkably sane and “normal” individual. Her role model, she explains, is her father-- the person who first introduced her to science and showed her that it could be “really cool”. On a more serious note, the scientist admits that being both a scientist and a Christian can be difficult. The most frustrating thing about her position, she says, is the amount of disinformation which is targeted at her very own Christian community.
In the second video, “Climate Change Evangelist”, Katharine Hayhoe delves into deeper discussion of the perceived conflict between climate change and Christian faith. She explains that admitting her identity as a Christian scientist can be uncomfortable. Since evangelicals are the targets of much disinformation concerning science in general -- and specifically the science surrounding climate change -- many people in the church have a misguided view of the subject and do not look kindly at her career choice. One woman encountered by Hayhoe at a church in Texas, for example, believed that global warming was a lie taught in schools to mislead her children. In an effort to realign misguided views like these, Katharine Hayhoe and her husband wrote a book addressing the deep-rooted emotions often associated with climate change. People fear that addressing the climate issue will bring forth changes in the economy and uproot their way of life. However, Hayhoe encourages her viewers to act out of love, as the Bible calls us to do, rather than out of fear. Acting out of love inspires us to consider the poor and disadvantaged people around the globe when we respond to the reality of a changing climate.
In the final segment of this three part video montage, Hayhoe addresses the question of what climate change means. Specifically, she is concerned about how global warming affects people on a personal level. While global warming generally brings to mind melting ice caps and polar bears, its implications are far more widespread, affecting the lives of everyone around the world- from cotton farmers in Texas to public health workers in Chicago. If nothing is done to change current emission levels, the number of days per year which exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit, for example, will begin to increase dramatically, and if emissions are increased, many areas will even develop extreme conditions like those seen currently in Death Valley. Hayhoe’s goal is to demonstrate clearly that the only way to preserve the world for future generations is to significantly reduce dependence on inefficient means of getting energy and instead transition to cleaner renewable energy sources.
Editor's Note: These videos first appeared on the Nova program "The Secret Life of Scientists & Engineers".
Commentary written by the BioLogos editorial team.
Katharine Hayhoe is a highly-respected expert on climate change. An associate professor in the Department of Political Science and director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University, her focus is developing new ways to quantify the potential impacts of human activities at the regional scale. As founder and CEO of ATMOS Research, she also provides relevant, state-of-the-art information to a broad range of non-profit, industry and government clients about how climate change will affect our lives. Her work has resulted in over 50 peer reviewed publications in key reports on the issue. She also teamed up with Andrew Farley to write A Climate for Change: Global Warming Facts for Faith-Based Decisions.