Turning Moral Beliefs into Meaningful Climate Action
As climate communicators, it’s vital to frame our message in a way that appeals to the values and identities of our audience. Katharine Hayhoe, a climate scientist who is also an evangelical Christian, knows this very well.
As she says in this Guernica interview, religion and science don’t have to be mutually exclusive, but in the case of climate change, “it’s essential to connect the science to our values. And for many of us, our values come from our faith.”
Hayhoe believes that part of being a Christian is caring for our neighbors, and taking responsibility for the planet God placed in our trust. She also believes that, while helping people get on board with the science is important, urgency requires us to tackle climate change with the values and issues we care about right now. Climate change has strong moral implications – it disproportionally affects the disadvantaged. So one way to appeal to people of faith is to show them how climate solutions can help those in need.
For more about connecting faith and climate change, visit blessedtomorrow.org. Our Blessed Tomorrow program unites and empowers faith leaders and helps them inspire their communities to be stewards of creation.
Ann Neumann, contributor to Guernica
Katharine Hayhoe, a climate scientist who is, like more than 85 million Americans, an evangelical, doesn’t so much defy popular and persistent categories as she makes them irrelevant. Her message — that we must act immediately to combat climate change, that we must shelve ideological arguments and embrace solutions — is characteristically pragmatic. And far more warmly received by the secular left than by the religious right. But Hayhoe, uninterested in stereotypes, is keen to harness her anachronistic position to further the real and necessary work of stopping climate change. “One of the most important things I can do is connect climate change to the values, the faith, and the issues we already care about,” she says in the interviews that follows. “And if, in the process, I have to sidestep around some very explosive mines, I will do that.”
Hayhoe is a professor at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas. Her religious credentials run deep; both of Hayhoe’s parents were missionaries, and her husband, Andrew Farley, is a pastor of Ecclesia: Church Without Religion in Lubbock (as well as a professor of applied linguistics at Texas Tech). It wasn’t until after their marriage, however, that she realized Farley didn’t believe that humans were causing the increasingly fluctuating weather patterns and rising temperatures recorded around the globe. Born and raised in Canada, Hayhoe was shocked to learn that many Americans consider climate change a hoax. She’s called Farley her very first convert. In 2009 they co-wrote A Climate for Change: Global Warming Facts for Faith-Based Decisions.
Image credit: Ashley Rodgers