Forum: Fighting climate change means loving God’s creations

Climate change is a call to Christian action, climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe said at Tuesday’s campus forum. As chief scientist for the Nature Conservancy and a professor at Texas Tech University, Hayhoe has always understood the global climate crisis through the lens of his faith and his belief in our responsibility to care for others.

“Since the 1960s, we’ve seen climate-induced disasters widen the economic gap between the world’s richest and poorest countries by as much as 25 percent,” she said in her speech. When she first learned how climate change was affecting the world’s most vulnerable, she asked herself, “What is climate change but a failure to love?”

Katherine Hayhoe Forum

Photo by Brooklynn Jarvis Kelson/BYU Photography

By climate change, Hayhoe means the human-caused increase in the planet’s average temperature from the 1900s to the present. Two degrees of warming might not sound like much, but it has serious effects.

Until the last decades of the history of human civilization, the temperature of the planet was as stable as that of the human body, fluctuating only by tenths of a degree. Just as a two-degree change in body temperature makes a person feel sick, a two-degree change in the planet can crush Earth’s systems, Hayhoe noted.

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“This is what is happening to our planet – it has a fever and we see the symptoms of this fever all around us.”

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Hayhoe coined the term “global freak” to describe these symptoms, referring to how warmer temperatures outstrip naturally occurring events such as floods and droughts. Hurricanes, for example, are getting stronger and intensifying faster because 90% of the heat trapped in the Earth’s atmosphere reaches the oceans and then fuels the storms. The world has seen a dramatic increase in many such climate-related disasters.

“In the 1980s, across the United States, there was an average of one new weather- or climate-related disaster every four months,” Hayhoe said. “In the 2010s, we had one every three weeks.”

While Earth’s climate has changed in the past — before humans were on the planet — Hayhoe analyzed and debunked several theories that suggest recent changes are inevitable and not human-caused, including the idea that the sun, volcanic activity or cycles natural sources fueled the heating. So, she asked, if not by natural causes, how is the Earth warming more and more, and faster?

“It all started in the 1700s when we figured out how to get massive amounts of coal (and today more oil and gas) out of the Earth and burn it, producing gases that trap the heat that builds up in the atmosphere,” Hayhoe. he said, comparing the gases to an extra blanket wrapped around the planet.

The resulting climate change has made disasters “more dangerous, more devastating,” with far-reaching consequences for humans and all life on Earth as they affect our food, water, air, buildings and infrastructure. And the poorest are often the most affected.

Hayhoe Forum 2022

Photo by Brooklynn Jarvis Kelson/BYU Photography

“When people say to me, ‘Are you telling us we have to save the planet?’, my answer is ‘No.’ The planet will orbit the Sun long after we’re gone. Who we have to save is, literally, us.”

Quoting Paul from 2 Timothy 1:7 — “God has not given us a spirit of fear,” but “a spirit of power” and a “sound mind” — Hayhoe observed that we should not react to global catastrophe with paralysis. fear and selfishness.

“We can act. How? Out of love. Which means we can consider others above ourselves. And, as a scientist, my favorite part, “with a sound mind.” So we can look at the information science gives us and use it to make good decisions, using our heads to inform our hearts.”

Practical solutions include reducing waste and investing in clean energy; protecting natural areas that remove carbon from the air; and adapting to a changing climate, such as adding green space to lower-income neighborhoods to naturally cool them and clean the air.

Because climate change is such a divisive political issue, perhaps the biggest difference an individual can make is simply to talk more about it, such as through BYU Sustainability’s “Y Talk.” initiative. “Connect the dots to how climate change is affecting what [you] both care,” Hayhoe suggested, whether it’s skiing, your kids or your faith.

“The conclusion is clear. Caring for God’s creation is a faithful acceptance of our responsibility and is a true expression of God’s love.”

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