If you peruse the comments on any article about climate change, you'll see scores of people claiming that climate change is a hoax and that the masses are being duped by some version of a globalist conspiracy in which thousands upon thousands of professional earth scientists are being paid off by boogeyman George Soros. Such denial about the reality of climate change crosses cultures, but one group is particularly prone to questioning the scientific consensus: white American evangelical Christians.
According to Pew Research, over a third of evangelical Christians claim there is "no solid evidence" that climate change is happening, and white evangelical Christians in the U.S. are much more likely to be skeptical of the science than other demographics. Most of the strongest voices in the climate change denier camp are religiously and politically conservative, which may lead those who view the world in binary, black and white terms — conservative/liberal, Republican/Democrat, saved/damned, good/evil — to automatically swing toward listening to deniers before listening to the vast majority of scientists.
Some people may also view science as being in conflict with their religion in general. For folks whose faith is their highest priority, such a view can easily lead to dismissing science out of hand.
None of this, of course, changes the fact that practically every reputable professional science organization on the planet has endorsed the consensus that the earth is warming faster than should naturally occur, that human activity is a significant contributor to that acceleration, and that not taking action to stop it will have disastrous consequences for life on our planet.
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So how do we bridge the chasm between scientific fact and (some) evangelical Christian beliefs?
Enter Dr. Katharine Hayhoe. As an atmospheric scientist who studies climate change, she takes science seriously. And as an evangelical Christian married to a pastor, she also takes the Bible seriously. The difference, she says, is that unlike religious faith, climate change is not something you believe in or don't believe in.
"I don't believe in climate change, and I never have because it is not a religion," says Hayhoe. "As a scientist I look at the data and the facts and they are clear: climate is changing, humans are responsible, the impacts are already serious, and there are solutions if we act now."
Hayhoe is the Director of the Climate Change Center at Texas Tech University. She was named one of Time's Most Influential People in 2014, one of Fortune's 50 Greatest Leaders in 2017, and recently received a U.N. Champion of the Earth award for Science and Innovation. She is a leading voice on climate change, and her overt faith makes her uniquely suited to reach those who are skeptical of science to the point of rejecting it.
If you want to see Dr. Hayhoe in action, go to her Twitter account, where she patiently answers people's questions and takes a refreshingly clear-headed approach to climate change denial. Then check out here digital video series, "Global Weirding with Katharine Hayhoe." Produced in partnership with PBS, the series tackles specific aspects of the science of climate change, as well as politics and religion that sometimes slip into the mix, and it does so brilliantly.
Here are a few gems from the series' YouTube channel:
First, the idea that climate change is just a money grab by scientists:
Climate change, that's just a money grab by scientist... right?www.youtube.com
And for the "The climate is always changing, this is all part of the natural cycle of things" folks:
This is all just a part of a natural cycle, right?www.youtube.com
How about what the Bible says about climate change?
The Bible doesn't talk about climate change, right?www.youtube.com
And for those of us who keep banging our head against the wall trying to fight denial with fact, some ways to talk to deniers that might actually help:
If I just explain the facts, they'll get it, right?www.youtube.com
Professional scientists are busy doing research, publishing their work, and teaching students. They don't have time to hang out in comments sections taking on the unscientific or pseudoscientific claims of random climate change deniers. And that's too bad because we need their voices out in the world, talking to normal people, explaining the science in ways that non-scientists can understand, and rebutting the people-who-think-they-are-thinking-critically-but-aren't.
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Thank you, Dr. Hayhoe, for lending your voice to the fray and for providing these tools we all can use to fight for the health and future of our home. You are just the breath of fresh air our planet needs right now.