Katherine Hayhoe: Climate Scientist and Evangelical


The Washington Post is running a really interesting piece on Katherine Hayhoe, a climate scientist at Texas Tech University and an evangelical Christian. (Her spouse is a Christian author, pastor, and radio host). Those evangelicals who want to reach public audiences in their religious tribe can learn a lot of Hayhoe’s approach.  Here is a taste of Dan Zak’s post:

Her skills of communication do seem miraculous by the standards of modern climate politics: She can convert nonbelievers. She knows how to speak to oil men, to Christians, to farmers and ranchers, having lived for years in Lubbock, Texas, with her pastor husband. She is a scientist who thinks that we’ve talked enough about science, that we need to talk more about matters of the heart.

For her, that means talking about faith.

“We humans have been given responsibility for every living thing on this planet, which includes each other,” Hayhoe said at the conference. “We are called to tend the garden and be good stewards of the gifts that God has given us.”

You might say that the climate problem, while understood through science, can be solved only through faith.

Faith in each other.

Faith in our ability to do something bold, together.

Faith that the pain of change, that the sacrifices required, will lead to a promised land.

Does this sound believable? Maybe in some places, to certain people. In Washington, at the climate conference, Hayhoe was preaching to the choir. But the prophet wasn’t just in town to talk to believers. She was here to talk to Congress.

Getting activists to clap for fossil fuels was the easy part.

Read the entire piece here.

11 thoughts on “Katherine Hayhoe: Climate Scientist and Evangelical

  1. “So I have faith in human ingenuity and the normal progress of things, just not in Big Government and politicians to “solve” climate change.”

    I am so right there with you. I’m a mechanical engineer/aspiring inventor (I’ve submitted for my first patent application for an electric car smart charger that facilitates greater grid concentration of solar power). But it doesn’t give off that impression when your knee-jerk reaction is to downplay climate change and the government instead of talking up your faith in human ingenuity.

    “Like anything else, there are trade-offs. Since we’re approaching this from the Christian perspective, a Christian may decide money should be spent on feeding and clothing the poor today vs directing money towards “caring for the poor” 100 years in the future.”

    Uhg. I really do feel the weight of that responsibly. But ultimately God can make bread from rocks. God doesn’t need my money. I think he desires my obedience more, and I was just so convicted that my pollution was causing miscarriages, infant mortality, asthma, cancer, climate change, ocean acidification, diluting the nutritional value of rice, and causing harm to God’s creation, which I was tasked with caring for. But also, the cost of solar and electric vehicles (like all tech) are inversely proportional to the amount of solar and electric vehicles being produced. So by buying solar and electric vehicles I am making energy and transportation more affordable for the poor. Similar to how almost all the earths poorest people are able to afford cell phones.

    We will end pollution in my lifetime. In the meantime all I Just please don’t pretend the consequences of pollution don’t bother you.


  2. Only problem is that none of my vehicles are econo-boxes. One is a Highlander and the other is a Ridgeline pickup. The third is a ’97 Camry used primarily as a commuter car. I might could pull off getting a souped-up golf cart for my daily commute, but there’s no electric truck option and few viable electric options for anything bigger that aren’t north of $40k.

    Don’t get me wrong. I may consider an electric car in the future, but it won’t have much of anything to do with CO2. Some friends of ours just got a Tesla X and I got to drive it a couple of weeks ago. Totally cool driving experience (“Look Ma! No hands!” 🙂 ). Of course, the Model X is around $85k, so even thought my wife loved it also it is definitely big enough to be a family vehicle that could one day haul around some grand-kids (hopefully!), that price tag is a non-starter.

    That’s fine if the home solar works out for you, but since I don’t see folks just rushing out to do it, I suspect in more cases than not, there are those “your mileage may vary” variables that make solar far less economically attractive under a lot of circumstances. As the previous poll shows, a lot of people say they believe in climate change. They just aren’t willing to pay more than a few bucks a month to do something about it.

    Like anything else, there are trade-offs. Since we’re approaching this from the Christian perspective, a Christian may decide money should be spent on feeding and clothing the poor today vs directing money towards “caring for the poor” 100 years in the future. While there are some admonitions regarding financial planning for things that occur in the future, I find little Scriptural support for worrying about things 50, 75 or 100 years from now. We have no knowledge of the future and what might be different even 10 or 15 years from now. it’s foolish to get overly worked up about it.

    I personally think that without the climate change hysteria (as if the climate hasn’t always been changing), that any number of regular technological advancements or economic factors may reduce CO2 emissions without “green new deals” and other such silly stuff. After all, can you imagine people 100 years ago worrying over where we would get all the wood to heat our homes and cook with in 2019? Or even some a bit further back wondering where we would put all the horses or what to do with all the horse waste when NYC would end up with 8 million people living there in the 21st century?

    Just as people didn’t know what nuclear power was in 1900, the folks in 2100 may be using something we cannot even conceive of at the present. They may view electric cars the way we view steam-powered cars of the early automobile era – quaint historical tidbits.

    So I have faith in human ingenuity and the normal progress of things, just not in Big Government and politicians to “solve” climate change. However, I do have a tremendous faith that if allowed to, they will royally screw things up. Take the ethanol boondoggle as one leading example. It’s nothing more than crony capitalism that can no longer even hide behind the claim of being an environmentally friendly alternative to fossil fuels.


  3. Alex,

    I have to confess that I like my carbon footprint. It has been really warm during the past week and my air conditioning is serving me well. I am old enough to remember Summer days when homeowners often had to sleep on the screened-in porch. If you stayed inside, the fans were some help but come nowhere close to air conditioning.



  4. Your numbers are little outdated. You can get long range electric car for $26,000, and that doesn’t include federal and state incentives. And I calculated a payback of 5 years on my latest solar system, and my boss calculated a payback of 6 years for his solar system. He calculated a return of 17%!
    Or, if you don’t have the money to invest there are companies that would make the investment for you, and you’d just pay them instead of the utility. Unless your roof gets a ton of shade they are able to get you a cheeper rate than the utility and you’ll save $ from day 1. It’s called a Power Purchase Agreement.


  5. I could save money too – but it would cost me $30,000+ a couple of times over to replace vehicles plus probably another $20,000 plus for solar panels or whatever for the house, if even that much would do it. I wouldn’t be saving money, just recouping it for decades to come.


  6. The follow-up is this:
    Katherine Hayhoe states the following: “We care about people who are suffering today – poverty, hunger and more. And those are the exact values we need to care about a changing climate.”
    as well as “Faith that the pain of change, that the sacrifices required, will lead to a promised land.”

    Nice sentiments, but we live in a world of trade-offs, not the fantasy Utopian solutions many of the religious zealots of climate change promote in things like the “Green New Deal”. What are these changes? What sacrifices are involved? What will they cost? Will travel be rationed? Are the trade-offs worth the cost? Who decides? Government or “We the People” through our own economic choices?

    The November 2018 IPPC report recommends a carbon tax of between $135 and $5500 per ton by 2030. That’s a pretty big spread, so given the notorious inaccuracy of government estimates, let’s just split the difference and peg it at roughly $2500/ton. That’s the equivalent of a $22.50 ADDITIONAL tax on gasoline by 2030, or roughly gas going up $2/gallon EACH year from 2020 to 2029 to achieve what the IPCC recommends. Even with that, this “solution” is wildy unrealistic based on the premises the IPCC makes about energy sources (59% increase in nuclear, 60% renewable energy by 2030 and 77% by 2050, decrease in coals usage by 78%, etc.).

    If we were to implement the IPCC recommended carbon tax that would make gasoline $20 or $30 by the year 2030, what will that do to the cost of producing and transporting food and to utility bills of the poor? Are you willing to make air travel un-affordable for millions of people?

    The implications of these changes are far costlier than any well-known advocate of “global warming” wishes to acknowledge, because if a 7 cent increase in the price of gas in France can set off riots like some months ago, imagine the response when you start advocating for increasing here for a couple of bucks every year for the next 10.

    A primary problem with the Religion of Climate Change is all the flowery talk without any mention of what it will cost. At least Jesus put it out there plainly and for all of his believers to know what they were required to do. Jesus would say there should be “truth in advertising”. We don’t get that with the adherents to the climate change religion. They’re not willing to admit the massive cost of what they seek, because then people wouldn’t want it.

    If you can’t be truthful in what “sacrifices” your religion requires, why should I become a “believer”? Maybe if a Dem 2020 candidate steps out and says, “We need to raise gas taxes $2/gallon per year until 2030 to fight global warming as the IPCC recommends. You won’t be able to take as many vacations or travel as much and it may make it too expensive to go overseas. Your food bill will double. Everything will cost more, but those are the costs we must be willing to pay”, then maybe we can start to have a discussion.


  7. “Religious people who deny climate science are generally spurred not by theology but by an assumption that climate science is based on political beliefs – namely, liberal ones. Converting nonbelievers on political grounds seems next to impossible.”

    Ahhh, the good ole’ “holocaust denier” implication. Sigh. Climate science is as much religion to politicians as it is science to scientists. The science is a convenient means to grab power and reshape the world to their liking. It is a means to an end. There are now billions, if not trillions of dollars in play. To borrow from George Will, “Government’s attempts to manipulate Earth’s temperature now comprise one of the world’s largest industries.”

    After all, in a Washington Post article, one of AOC’s advisor’s admitted: “The interesting thing about the Green New Deal is it wasn’t originally a climate thing at all. Do you guys think of it as a climate thing? Because we really think of it as a how-do-you-change-the-entire-economy thing…

    I think it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s dual. It is both rising to the challenge that is existential around climate and it is building an economy that contains more prosperity. More sustainability in that prosperity — and more broadly shared prosperity, equitability and justice throughout.” (Never mind the hubris in the belief that they can micromanage the economic decisions for at least 315+ million people to get an outcome they find agreeable. Lucifer also thought he could manage things better, too.)

    Christiana Figueres, executive secretary, UN Framework Convention of Climate Change, stated in Feb 2015: “This is the first time in the history of mankind that we are setting ourselves the task of intentionally, within a defined period of time, to change the economic development model that has been reigning for at least 150 years, since the Industrial Revolution”.

    So there’s plenty of reason to believe climate change is more politics than science.

    That’s my short answer. 🙂


  8. John,
    I had never heard of this woman until just seeing your current posting. I was, however, aware of her husband, a preacher with controversial views on the nature of grace and related topics. He has a radio program and a church.
    The article you linked in your posting is clearly a “puff piece” portraying her as the Joan of Arc within the environmental community. I don’t know anything about about the author, Dan Zak, but he does engage in a bit of propagandist journalism. Example: Supposedly, Dr. Hayhoe receives “hate mail” about her views. But the compassionate Dr. Hayhoe is understanding of her detractors because hate comes from anger and anger comes from fear. Her opponents are simply victims of “fear.” Wow! See how it’s done. Simple opposition mail is actually “hate mail” which gives Mr. Zak a foundation to build his one-sided narrative about his subject’s kindness, love, and wisdom. Dr. Hayhoe is so compelling as a climate advocate that she has even brought a backbencher Republican congressman into her camp!

    I had to chuckle about this whole subject in light of the past few days discussions on The Way of Improvement. Dr. Hayhoe is from Canada. Hey, if she doesn’t like Texas she needs to return to the realm of Justin Trudeau! Ha ha


  9. “People sometimes call me a climate evangelist, and I’m like, ‘No, this is not Good News.’ ”
    I love that she doesn’t let anyone forget evangelism is all about Jesus, the Good News.


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