Katharine Hayhoe, a climate scientist and white evangelical Christian living in Texas, believes her unique position and strategy of approaching climate change will help turn skeptics into believers. This pastor's wife launched a web series, and has been using social media to engage climate change deniers through her faith-based methods. She recently appeared at the White House to discuss climate change with President Barack Obama and actor-turned-environmental-advocate Leonardo DiCaprio.
Hayhoe is a atmospheric and climate scientist at Texas Tech University. She said she doesn't accept global warming "on faith," and that she crunches the data, analyzes the models, and helps engineers and city managers and ecologists quantify the impacts.
"The data tells us the planet is warming; the science is clear that humans are responsible; the impacts we're seeing today are already serious; and our future is in our hands," she asserts.
Because Hayhoe uses her faith and a conciliatory approach to debate with climate change skeptics, she appears to be perceived as a clear, well-spoken and well-liked science communicator in a unique position to meet climate skeptics in ways other scientists cannot. She said adopting an adversarial or confrontational approach will not yield results in the end.
"If you begin a conversation with, 'You're an idiot,' that's the end of the conversation," she reasons.
Her web series, called "Global Weirding," as well as frequent posting on Twitter and Facebook, in addition to attending local churches and international conferences have led to noticeable changes.
Colleagues and fellow scientists, such as Gavin Schmidt, a NASA climate scientist, comment that Hayhoe's faith is an important factor in granting her acceptance into the evangelical Christian community, according to WRN.
Hayhoe said she had to work patiently with her husband, Andrew Farley, for more than a year to convince him climate change is real and that something needs to be done about it. Their journey in discovering the truth led to the publication of a book, "A Climate for Change: Global Warming Facts for Faith-Based Decisions."
As an associate professor in the Department of Political Science and director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University, Hayhoe's research focuses on establishing a scientific basis for assessing the regional to local-scale impacts of climate change on human systems and the natural environment.
She also is the founder and CEO of ATMOS Research, a group devoted to bridging the gap between scientists and stakeholders to provide relevant, state-of-the-art information on how climate change will affect human lives to a broad range of non-profit, industry and government clients.
Hayhoe also serves as a scientific advisor to Citizen's Climate Lobby, the Eco America Moment US project, the Energy and Enterprise Initiative, the Evangelical Environmental Network, and the International Women's Earth and Climate Initiative.
Her work is featured on the documentary series "Years of Living Dangerously," and "The Secret Life of Scientists and Engineers," and in articles appearing in On Earth, Grist, the LA Times, Climate Progress, and others. In 2014, she was named to the TIME 100 list and awarded the American Geophysical Union's Climate Communication Prize.