ROYERSFORD >> Katharine Hayhoe may have found the book that can help evangelical Christians skeptical of climate change begin to change their minds — the Bible.
Hayhoe, an associate professor of political science at Texas Tech University who serves there as the director of the Climate Science Center, visited Christ’s Church of the Valley in Royersford Sunday to talk to the congregation members about how climate change affects the poor, why they should care about it and what can be done to help, as part of the church’s annual Justice Day.
“We have this love for others,” said Hayhoe who is also the CEO of ATMOS Research and Consulting, which helps companies measure the impacts of climate change on their infrastructure and shows them how to plan for the future. “And that is what should characterize us as Christians. When we see people in need, I want to help. And I know that most other people do too.”
A devout Christian herself who in 2014 was named one of Time Magazine’s “100 Most Influential People,” Hayhoe incorporated scripture and focused less on how climate change affects the environment and more on how it affects people during her presentation.
“The reality is a thermometer isn’t a Democrat or Republican,” she said. “It doesn’t tell you a different number depending on how you vote.”
A warmer climate can lead to longer droughts, heavier floods and stronger hurricanes, which can then lead to ruined businesses, starvation, loss of homes and even loss of life. Humans, she said, have a responsibility to protect the planet.
“Did you know why humans were made in the image of God?” she asked the audience, quoting the Book of Genesis. “So that, and here’s the verse, ‘we can be responsible for every living thing that moves on the face of the earth.’”
When explaining climate change, Hayhoe said Earth’s atmosphere acts like “a natural blanket” to keep the planet at the perfect temperature for life. Burning coal, gas and oil creates more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. That heat-trapping gas then covers the planet in a “second blanket” it doesn’t need.
“And our planet is running a fever,” she said.
For those unwilling to trust the data supporting the case, Hayhoe suggested looking at the 26,500 examples of “natural thermometers” that indicate the planet is getting hotter. Things like “when do the tulips bloom? When do the trees bud? What types of animals can be seen in the back yard? When do the birds migrate? How is the sea level changing?”
“God’s creation is telling us yes, we’re running a fever and it’s getting warmer,” she said.
Solving climate change shouldn’t just be done to protect polar bears living on an iceberg. It’s to protect the people most vulnerable to its affects, Hayhoe said.
“If we are pouring all of our money and our hope and our effort and our prayers and our time into a bucket to try to fix poverty, hunger, injustice, but we’re leaving climate change out of the picture” she said, “it’s poking holes in our bucket.”
To respond to the overwhelming issue, Hayhoe said not to feel guilty or be afraid of the problem.
“God is not the author of fear,” she said. “He has given us a spirit of power, a spirit of love and my favorite, a sound mind to make good decisions with the information he gives us.”
She advocated talking about the issue, supporting elected officials and organizations that try to solve it and finding ways to reduce energy consumption.
“If every home in the entire country changed just one incandescent light bulb to an LED,” she said, “that would be like taking a million cars off the road.”
Senior Pastor the Rev. Brian Jones said the church invited Hayhoe to speak to combat the accusation that Christians are only concerned about the after life.
“We’re just as concerned about making an impact in people’s lives here and now,” he said. That’s why the church continues to invite authors, scientists and others “to challenge us.”
“We wanted to address the issue of climate change because of the disproportionate impact it has on the poor,” he said.
Jones said Hayhoe’s presentation was very well received by his congregation.
“Even people who came in as skeptics, they found information presented in a balanced way such that they had a lot to think about at the very least,” he said. “And their minds were changed at most.”