Leading Climate Scientist Urges Hope: “Fear is not the motivator for long-term action”

 on October 20, 2022

“Every bit of warming matters. Every choice matters. Every action matters. What we do matters,” says Dr. Katharine Hayhoe. Dr. Hayhoe, leading climate scientist and professor, spoke at the 2022 Fall Bishop’s Company event, which was held online.

As a Christian, a Canadian, and a climate scientist, Dr. Hayhoe is doing her best to tackle the climate change crisis in grounded conversations that seek to galvanize humanity into collaborating to save our planet and preserve a future for our children and grandchildren. Her book, Saving Us: A Climate Scientist’s Case for Hope and Healing in a Divided World, was one of the bishop’s Lenten study books this year.

Hayhoe’s career began with a Bachelor of Science, specializing in physics and astronomy, from Victoria College at the University of Toronto. Hayhoe credits a class in climate science as she was finishing her undergraduate degree with opening her eyes to the connection between climate science and physics. “I didn’t realize climate science was based on the exact same basic physics–thermodynamics, non-linear fluid dynamics, and radiative transfer–I’d been learning in astrophysics. And I definitely didn’t realize that climate change wasn’t just an environmental issue–it’s a threat multiplier.”

Speaking on a verse from scripture that can motivate Christians towards justice and change, Hayhoe referenced 2 Timothy. “Paul is writing to Timothy, and says, ‘God has not given us a spirit of fear,’” said Hayhoe. “That is so important because we are just being overwhelmed with fear today—fear of what will happen if we don’t act, fear of what will happen if we do act.”

“Fear will wake us up, but fear is not the motivator for long-term action,” said Hayhoe. “You need hope when things are dark. Hope is the chance that there is a better future that’s possible if you do everything you can to work towards it.”

The conversation with Hayhoe helped us dig deeper into our diocesan Mission Action Plan’s commitment to environmental justice by helping us create the space for impactful community advocacy initiatives and conversations with our friends, family, and neighbours.

“The quote that I chose to end the book, is attributed to St. Augustine … it says, “Hope has two beautiful daughters, their names are anger and courage. Anger at the way things are, and courage to see that they do not remain where they are.”

Hayhoe is the Paul Whitfield Horn Distinguished Professor and the Political Science Endowed Chair in Public Policy and Public Law in the Department of Political Science at Texas Tech University, as well as an associate in the Public Health program of the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. Hayhoe was named as one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in 2014.

Hayhoe’s current research focuses on assessing the regional and local-scale impacts of climate change on human systems and the natural environment. This involves forecasting, global and regional climate models, and statistical downscaling models. Hayhoe is focused on translating scientific climate projections into accessible and relevant information relevant to agriculture, ecosystems, energy, infrastructure, public health, and water resources.

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