t f p g+ YouTube icon

Katharine Hayhoe: Evangelical Christian, Climate Scientist

Bookmark and Share

November 9, 2012 Tags: Science as Christian Calling

Today's video features Katharine Hayhoe. Please note the views expressed here are those of the author, not necessarily of BioLogos. You can read more about what we believe here.

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. As an associate professor 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. Katharine’s work has resulted in over 120 peer-reviewed publications, which include serving as lead author on the Second and Third U.S. National Climate Assessments as well as on reports by the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the National Academy of Science. In 2014, Katharine was named one of 100 Global Thinkers by Foreign Policy and one of the 100 most influential people in the world by TIME, and was awarded the American Geophysical Union’s Climate Communication Prize. Together with her husband, pastor and Christian author Andrew Farley, she wrote A Climate for Change: Global Warming Facts for Faith-Based Decisions.

View the archived discussion of this post

This article is now closed for new comments. The archived comments are shown below.

Page 1 of 1   1
beaglelady - #74277

November 9th 2012

I thought these videos were really great. And timely too, since we were recently clobbered by Sandy and the Nor’easter Athena.  There have also been some freakish rain storms lately.  I’m pretty sure global warming could be a factor, since hurricanes are fueled by warm, moist air.

Skl - #74297

November 10th 2012

I don’t know what climate change has to do with the evolution-Christianity debate, but I found this video on Hurricane Sandy interesting, and frankly, entertaining. I like that Joe Bastardi.


HornSpiel - #74298

November 10th 2012


Fair question since evolution is the focus of the site, though the Forum byline above does say Science and Faith in Dialog. So I like Beaglelady above am glad to see this topic addressed.

I often wonder why it is such a hot topic in the Science-Faith debate. Perhaps it is because a lot of the evidence is based on ice cores, tree rings, and other evidence that alos points to an old earth. Just for that reason YECs might dismiss it.

However like Katharine, I do think more pernicious reasons for doubting the evidence. I am saddened that positive values like  faith, family, and patriotism are so often used as a cover for justifying our own personal interests and resisting positive societal movements.

Bill Guerrant - #74305

November 11th 2012

I enjoyed the videos.  Very well done.  Thanks for expanding the conversation to include climate change, which is certainly another subject upon which there is a perceived conflict between evangelical Christianity and science.

Skl - #74331

November 12th 2012

From today’s Wall Street Journal:

Northward winds are driving the record growth of winter sea ice around Antarctica, which stands in contrast to the extensive melting of the Arctic sea ice in recent years, scientists reported Sunday.

Their new research, based on 19 years of daily ice-motion measurements recorded by four satellites of the U.S. Defense Meteorological Satellite Program, highlights how geography, weather and climate patterns are affecting the planet’s polar regions in different ways.

The researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California and the British Antarctic Survey reported their work Sunday in Nature Geoscience.

In 1992, the direction of the drifting sea ice changed, with the spread of the ice doubling in some regions, the satellite measurements showed. Earlier this year, Antarctica’s sea ice reached a record expanse of 7.49 million square miles, before the spring thaw began.

In a separate study made public last month, climate scientists at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland reported that winter sea ice surrounding Antarctica has been increasing by about 6,600 square miles every year—an area larger than Connecticut—during the same decades that the Arctic summer sea ice has been shrinking.

“The larger connection to global climate change and warming is more difficult to say,” Dr. Kwok said. “We don’t understand that yet.”

Eddie - #74337

November 12th 2012

Now this I like!

Brad Vietje - #75999

January 15th 2013


Ah, yes, but in addition to the area of the winter ice surrounding Antarctica, we need to consider the volume of the ice—the total mass of ice.  Is this also growing, or might we have a larger area of thinner ice, and thus less ice overall?

I arctic regions, ice in the Arctic Ocean has been thinning dramatically, so not only is the area of ice shrinking, but the remaining ice is thinner and more vulnerable to melting.  This may not be happening in the Antarctic, but I’d like an expert to tell me more about this.

Mike Beidler - #74378

November 13th 2012

Thanks for this, Katharine!  As one who is admittedly and woefully ignorant on this particular topic, consider your book purchased! 

lancelot10 - #75405

December 18th 2012


God is in charge of the climate - every atom of it.   God never slips up.  At the moment there is no evidence of global warming .   We need CO2 to make plants grow and there was much more in the past.  If God decides to change the climate there will be nothing we can do to stop Him - eg as in Revelations.  At the moment we should praise God for a world full of food and share this food with the hungry.    The CO2 from one volcano can be more than all the CO2 from past human activity.   Remember Greenland was just so - green grass cows and sheep only a few hundred years ago - now it is frozen.   The world was much warmer in the past with the Romans having vineyards in England.

Brad Vietje - #76000

January 15th 2013



There is much truth in what you write, with one glaring exception.  You wrote:  “At the moment there is no evidence of global warming”, which is patently false.  There is overwhelming evidence, as Katherine Hayhoe so eloquently expresses.

To explore this issue from a Christian perspective, perhaps you could search out her video presentations, or get her book, titled A Climate For Change: Global Warming Facts for Faith-based Decisions, co-authored with her husband, Andrew Farley, an evangelical preacher.  If the latter, perhaps you could form a group to discuss her book at your Church and start a lively discussion.

lancelot10 - #75406

December 18th 2012

As an aside christians would be better to oppose GM foods which will lead to worldwide disaster since they do the opposite of the claims of their profit hungry american promoters. 

Lonnie E. Schubert - #77908

March 28th 2013

I find it most important to keep Jesus and His actions foremost. If Jesus didn’t say it or do it, it is likely not of primary importance. Jesus did say, “love thy neighbor.” Ms. Hayhoe does not seem to be showing love to Mr. Anthony Watts. http://wattsupwiththat.com/2013/03/27/i-get-the-heave-ho-from-hayhoe/

I’ll let her actions speak for themselves. Jesus said we know a tree by its fruit.

The simple fact is that the proposed cure of eliminating the the world’s energy is without doubt worse than even the most extreme forecasts of the proposed problem. Consider: before the industrial revolution, it was simply accepted as natural to bury your children. A full half of all people never saw their eighth birthday. http://nofrakkingconsensus.com/2013/03/26/speaking-of-the-children/ 

Mr. Watts provides a service for all of us, including our children. Educate yourself. Soon, nature will prove the alarmists wrong, just as throughout history. 

Lisa Boucher - #78483

April 13th 2013

Anthony Watts has a long track record of disinformation about climate science. Katharine Hayhoe was right to block him from her Twitter account.

One need not take my word for it. Watch the video that documents his lies about U.S. temperature recording stations: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P_0-gX7aUKk

Watts is also the same person who once called for his anti-science readers to “shout them down in the comments section”: http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2011/03/04/207632/anthony-watts-wattsupwiththat-readers-shout-down-comments-section

Small wonder that someone as intelligent as Dr. Hayhoe has zero interest in engaging with him. I’m pretty sure that the Jesus never said that we should facilitate evil behavior.

Page 1 of 1   1