Faith and science are not mutually exclusive, and this understanding can help address the climate challenges we face today, Katharine Hayhoe told hundreds who gathered at the First Baptist Church on Oak Street in downtown Asheville Tuesday, April 5, to hear the acclaimed climate scientist present a talk titled “Science, Faith and Our Changing Climate.”
Hayhoe, who holds a doctorate in atmospheric science, is an associate professor in the Department of Political Science and director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University. She is also an evangelical Christian.
Hayhoe began her talk with a history of climate science since the 1800s, including its early scientists. Turning to the last 20 years of climate-science research, she then presented data demonstrating that the planet’s climate is changing. More importantly, she added, the scientific data is clear: Humans are responsible.
Pivoting to issues of faith, Hayhoe referenced a number of bible sources, including Genesis 1, where, she said, “God made us responsible” for creation, and John 13:34-35, which commands people to love one another. She also cited several contemporary sociological studies that show a lack of belief in climate change is rooted in people’s social circles and political ideologies, not in their religion.
Offering a path forward to engage people of faith, and even those not faith-based, Hayhoe suggested: “bonding over our shared values, connecting those values to climate issues, explaining why [those issues are] real, and inspiring others with the progress already made and with shared values in faith.”
Her message of common ground and our shared values for future generations resonated well with her audience, a wide range of people, from climate and faith-based activists and community leaders to politicians to the general public.
The program was presented by the Creation Care Alliance, a program of MountainTrue, along with supporting partners Krull & Company , Green Sage Café, Climate Listening Project , Citizens Climate Lobby Asheville Chapter and the Wild Goose Festival.
“Regardless of how you feel about climate change or what you believe in, in terms of your religion, we all can agree that we need to take care of the land where we live and this Earth. It’s the only one we have. It’s here not just for us, but for future generations,” observed state Rep. Brian Turner.
Julie Mayfield, co-director of MountainTrue and member of Asheville City Council, offered that, “MountainTrue is a grassroots environmental organization, we are a policy advocacy group, and to effect policy change we need people to support what we’re advocating. The faith community is an enormous sector of our community. Eighty percent of the people affiliate with a faith. We ignore that affiliation at our peril if we want to change policy for the better to protect the environment.”
Citizens’ Climate Lobby, Asheville Chapter’s, Lead Organizer Steffi Rausch said citizens who are well trained and organized by Congressional District with a good system of support can influence the political process to achieve bipartisan solutions to addressing climate impacts.
Peter Krull, owner of Krull & Company, a sustainable investment service in Asheville, explained why he was a sponsor of the event. “Our business is helping people align their investments with their values, and what we see with Dr. Hayhoe is that she is educating a broad group, especially in the faith community. We have a program called Re.Vest, specifically targeted at both congregations and people of faith, helping them to both divest from fossil fuels and then re-invest in more sustainable investment options.”
Hayhoe and her husband, Andrew Farley, published a book titled A Climate for Change: Global Warming Facts for Faith-Based Decisions in 2009. Hayhoe and Farley are evangelical Christians, and Farley, an associate professor of applied linguistics at Texas Tech, is also the pastor of a local church.