Climate scientist Dr. Katharine Hayhoe recently sat down for an interview to discuss her work bridging the climate divide, particularly with the evangelical community. What sparked her decision to speak out was the realization that “rejection of climate science was an issue for groups that I was actually part of or associated with.” Hayhoe, who is the director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University, lives in Texas, and attends an Evangelical church, noted “20 or 30 percent of the people around me [reject]” climate science. “Depending on where I am and what I’m doing, it could be 99 percent of the people around me who don’t think climate change is real.”
“I felt I had not just a collective responsibility as a climate scientist, but I had a personal responsibility because I knew that I would probably be the only scientist many of them would ever meet, and the only one that they would ever listen to,” she said.
Hayhoe pointed out that the polarization of our political system is part of the cause for the current divide on climate change. “If it were 25 years ago, I don’t think we would be in the situation we are today, politically or culturally.” She continued to say that aligning with “unusual voices” on the issue is key, especially “thought leaders and organizations of influence in very different communities, in marginalized communities where they often feel environmental issues are a luxury of the rich.”
“Climate change, of course, really isn’t environmental. I think it’s a human issue,” Hayhoe said, noting that the challenge she and others face is “changing minds, not hearts.”
In the spirit of full disclosure, Dr. Hayhoe sits on our Advisory Council and is one of our favorite climate scientists!