ABILENE—While a polar bear standing on an patch of melting ice may be the most ready picture associated with a warming climate, Katherine Hayhoe would like to see it replaced, at least in the minds of Christians.
Hayhoe, a climate scientist at Texas Texas University, told students at Hardin-Simmons University it will take a personal stake to create changes in behavior.
She asked the students how many would quit driving today if they were promised not one more polar bear would die due to global warming. She confessed she wouldn't either.
"I?would want to, and I might make it a couple of weeks, but especially in West Texas, it just wouldn't work," she said.
One of the hardest hills to climb in changing behaviors, she admitted, is many people, especially conservative Christians, have a mindset that there is not a problem.
The last 12 years, a Gallup Poll asked a question concerning doubt about the evidence for climate change, she noted.
In answer to the question, "Is there evidence that the earth is warming?," 66 percent of Americans polled said "No."
"Sixty-six percent say that there is no evidence—essentially that the earth is lying to us, that it is making stuff up that is not true. And that is what really hurts … It's saying, 'I don't care what God's creation is telling us; it doesn't matter. All that matters is that we have life the way we want it right now,'" Hayhoe said.
She went on to note a Sick America survey found people with more conservative religious views aren't even dubious about the issue—they are certain it isn't real.
Hayhoe acknowledged she struggles to understand the disconnect between views because the vast majority of Christians do agree on a number of things concerning the earth:
• This planet is here because God created it here for us.
• Adam, and through him the rest of humanity, was given the responsibility to care for creation.
• It's important to respect God's creation.
• It's important to conserve our natural resources.
One reason for disbelief in evidence pointing to climate change is that the science can be hard to understand, she admitted.
"This stuff is tough. We don't see it's immediate effects. We look out the window and see green grass. We look out, and we don't see it with our eyes. Everything looks OK," Hayhoe said.
Another reason why some find it difficult to understand is that what people see doesn't look like global warming. Record snowfalls in the Northeast don't look like warming of any kind.
The truth, Hayhoe said, is that strong snowfalls are a symptom of a warming planet. Warmer winters put more water vapor in the air enabling the heavier snow event to happen, she explained.
Some also spread disinformation—information they know not to be true, she asserted.
Hayhoe reported her family and her job were threatened by those who disagree with her.
"It's not because I'm a Christian. It's not because I'm a human or a mother or a pastor's wife or a missionary kid or any of these things that I am. It's because I've studied the planet, and I try to tell people what the planet is telling me."
The Bible does not directly address climate change or how Christians should address it, she acknowledged.
"The Bible says nothing about environmental issues. It says nothing about creation care. It definitely talks about responsibility for the planet, but it never uses the word 'stewardship,' and it certainly doesn't talk about climate change or global warming," she said.
"The Bible does say choices have consequences, and that we can't live anyway we want."
She went on to say the Bible has quite a bit to say about love.
"We have two commandments—we are asked to love our God, and we are asked to love our neighbor. It's pretty simple.
"So what does love have to do with climate change? Rising sea levels, droughts and disappearing glaciers are threatening millions of people, especially the poor and the needy—the people who don't have the resources to adapt to future change,"?she said.
Prayer should be a key ingredient in every Christian's response to climate change, she insisted.
"We as Christians are different. We have a different value system. Even more important, we have the Spirit of God living in us, guiding us every day," Hayhoe said.