Climate scientist and Texas Tech University professor Katharine Hayhoe provided BYU students with clear and accessible ways to address climate change during her Nov. 29 forum.
In her speech, titled “Loving All God’s Creations,” she told BYU students that she uses science to learn the facts of climate change, but uses her heart and faith to care about the people and places it affects and to decide what to do about it. She also encouraged listeners to start conversations and connect with people to create systemic change and demonstrate love for God’s creations.
Hayhoe is an atmospheric scientist who studies the impact of global warming – or, as she called it, “global freak”. In 2014, she was listed as one of TIME’s 100 Most Influential People and gave a popular TED talk that has millions of views. on YouTube and the TED website.
She began her address by linking their faith to her profession. She said being raised by parents who were both scientists and Christians had an impact on her. “What is science but the study of God’s creation?” she said.
Hayhoe said some people doubt the reality of climate change because they believe the changes can be contributed to the sun, volcanic activity or natural cycles.
However, she debunked these ideas, saying that the planet has received less energy from the sun over the past 50 years, volcanic activity traps heat and natural cycles simply move heat instead of creating it – so, according to her , the earth should be cooler, not warmer.
She also said a warmer climate increases the frequency and intensity of weather-related disasters such as floods, fires and droughts. This affects all living things, including people, Hayhoe said, especially poorer people. “What is climate change but a failure to love? Because these disasters affect us,” she said.
To address the dire consequences of climate change, Hayhoe compared the global temperature to a swimming pool. She said that there is a certain level that is comfortable for us, where an individual’s feet can touch the bottom. But in the early 1700s, she explained, people started pouring more and more water into it using fossil fuels.
To survive, she said people must do three things. First, turn off the hose. This could mean using less energy or wasting fewer resources. Second, open and widen the drain. The good news is that nature can help us with this, and people can help us by making cities greener by planting trees and promoting conservation. Third, learn to swim and help others do the same. Hayhoe said it will take time to empty the pool back to comfortable levels. So, in the meantime, people have to learn how to live in the current environment.
“When we look at climate solutions, there are so many win-wins,” Hayhoe said. “They can provide more energy at affordable prices, not less. And I can certainly save the world.” She also gave some examples of what she is doing in her own life to tackle climate change, such as connecting your consumption to the UK’s Berkley Climate Calculator and implementing small changes.
But personal consumption accounts for only a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions, Hayhoe added. She recommended having conversations and talking about the changes that are happening with the people around us.
“It’s a genuine expression of our faith,” Hayhoe said of climate action. “It is a faithful acceptance of our responsibility. And it is a true expression of God’s love.” BYU students can visit the University’s sustainability page to learn more about how they can get involved.