GSA Annual Meeting in Denver, Colorado, USA - 2016

Paper No. 285-1
Presentation Time: 8:10 AM


HAYHOE, Katharine, Climate Science Center, Texas Tech University, Holden Hall 72, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX 79409,

The challenge posed by human-induced climate change to society and the natural environment has been carefully and methodically summarized by thousands of peer-reviewed studies, as well as decades’ worth of exhaustive reports by Royal Societies, National Academies, federal agencies, and United Nations panels. As the scientific evidence builds, however, public and political opinion on climate change in the U.S.—as well as in other nations including Australia, the U.K., and Canada—remains sharply divided along ideological, socio-economic, and even religious lines.

Many of the objections to climate science come from political and religious conservatives who liken climate change to a belief: a new religion that worships the creation rather than the Creator. Others who agree with the science of climate change unwittingly reinforce this confrontational framing by categorizing people into those who “believe” in climate change and those who do not. Why is this so important? Because framing climate science as a belief deliberately places it in direct opposition to the beliefs of nearly 85% of Americans who already belong to an established faith.

Science is not a religion, however; and unlike issues of the origins of the universe and life, objections to climate change are not even inherently theological. Though U.S. evangelicals and non-Hispanic Catholics show the strongest disagreement with climate science, detailed analysis shows this is to be correlation rather than causation: today, the primary predictor of opinions on climate change is not religious affiliation, but rather where we lie on the political spectrum, moderated by secondary predictors of age, gender, and race.

Can the issue of climate science be framed without resorting to issues of belief and faith? Going one step further, can faith be used in tandem with, rather than in opposition to, the science? Combining basic tenets of the Christian faith with recent findings from the areas of psychology, sociology, and climate science, I discuss the role that both science and faith-based values are able to play in engaging conservative and faith-based communities on climate science and solutions.