Raised by an environmental scientist, I have heard about global warming for as long as I can remember. However, as I am reminded each holiday when I sit down with extended family and friends, there are still many people I know and love who do not accept climate change.  

This past Thanksgiving, I experienced a major turning point when my grandmother said that based on all the changes she has noticed, she is ‘beginning to believe’ global warming is real.  She wondered aloud: how was global warming becoming a religious or political topic?

Dr. Katharine Hayhoe did a marvelous job covering that question during her keynote at First Baptist in Asheville on April 5.   

photo by Dayna Ruggerio

photo by Dayna Ruggerio

In her talk, “Science, Faith and our Changing Climate,” Dr. Hayhoe said that discussing whether or not someone believes in climate change is like asking if someone believes in gravity – whether or not they do, they are still falling in one direction if they walk off a cliff.

When you ask someone about their belief on climate change, she explained, the problem with asking at all is that it ultimately questions their opinions, identity, and ideology.  This immediately makes a person defensive and emotionally involved.  If someone asked you if you believe in gravity, you would likely feel a little confused by the question, but not have the same strong emotions you experience when asked if you believe in global warming or if you believe in a certain religion.  

Dr. Hayhoe makes it clear that she does not believe in global warming.  She knows based on scientific evidence that it is a fact and that humans are causing it.  Unfortunately, because we view and discuss global warming as if it is something to be believed in, it is associated with religious and political ideologies.  This has resulted in barriers in some faith communities to accept climate change as a fact.  And as long as we continue talking about global warming as if it is something to be believed in, there will doubt.     

Faith communities can be powerful forces to combat climate change.  Through joint prayer and action, they can make an enormous impact.  A congregation divesting from fossil fuels makes more of an impact than one individual.  A place of worship installing solar panels on its roof makes more of an impact than solar panels on a small home.

Because of the power the faith community has to make this world a better place, it is critical for us to stand together against global warming.  

Hopefully we will all one day live in a world where no one believes in global warming, because it is accepted as a fact.    

For information on what you can do as part of a faith community, please visit the following sites:

  • ReVest -- socially responsible investing for faith organizations and individuals
  • Climate Caretakers -- a global community of Christians committed to prayer and action on climate change.
  • Katharine Hayhoe -- Katharine Hayhoe's official site
photo by Dayna Ruggerio

photo by Dayna Ruggerio