I Don't Believe in Climate Change.
I Believe in God.
by Katharine Hayhoe
I don’t believe in climate change.
I believe in God. I believe He created this amazing planet we live in, and gave us responsibility—or stewardship—or dominion over it. I believe God delights in his creation and wants us to, as well. And I believe we are to love others, especially the poor, the vulnerable, and those most in need, as Christ loved us.
I’m a Christian – but I’m also a scientist. I spend my days studying how climate change is affecting us, in the places where we live. Rainfall patterns are shifting, sea level is rising, and weather is getting weirder: when we add them all up, there’s more than 26,500 separate lines of evidence that the planet is warming.
I don’t believe in global warming. The evidence of God’s creation tells us it’s real. Nearly two hundred years of meticulous scientific studies has established that it’s not a natural cycle this time: it’s us. And my own research demonstrates the severity of the consequences for all of us, particularly those less fortunate than us who are already suffering. We care about a changing climate because it exacerbates the risks we face today: hunger, poverty, disease, and injustice.
Yet when we hear Christians discussing climate change, often the predominant responses are negative: hostility, anger, and denial, a stew of toxic emotions underlain by fear. Fear of losing an identity that’s based on politics and ideology, if we get on board with a “liberal” issue; fear of rejection by our family, our community, even our church; or fear of losing our comfortable lifestyle in search of what’s right and just.
As Christians, we have a litmus test for these emotions. Because, as the apostle Paul writes to Timothy, “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” So when we see people responding in fear, we know that’s not who we’re meant to be.
What gifts does God give us? Power, to effect meaningful, long-term change. Love, to share God’s heart for our brothers and sisters who are hurting and in need. And a sound mind: to look at the reality of what is happening in our world and acknowledge that yes, climate change is real, it’s serious, and we need to fix it.
Being Christian isn’t a hindrance to acting on climate. On the contrary, if we believe we’re called “to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God,” then caring about a changing climate, and those already suffering its impacts, is what we’ve been created to do. It’s who we are.
Katharine Hayhoe is an atmospheric scientist known for her work bridging the broad, deep gap between scientists and Christians on climate change. For her efforts, she’s been named as one of Christianity Today’s “50 Women to Watch” and Fortune’s “50 Greatest Leaders.” Follow her Facebook page and watch her PBS Digital Series, Global Weirding, for more on climate, politics, and faith. (Photo by Artie Limmer, Texas Tech University)