Katharine Hayhoe, a climate scientist and evangelical Christian, says she gets slammed every day on social media for her contributions to establishing that climate change is human-made.
But on Monday, she was welcomed with applause at a United Nations-backed climate summit in the capital of Canada’s western province of Alberta, where polls show that climate skepticism rates are among the highest in the country.
Hayhoe, a professor at Texas Tech University, has emerged in recent years as a leading voice sharing the science of climate change to skeptics – many of whom are fellow evangelical churchgoers.
A 2015 survey from the Washington D.C.-based Pew Research Center found that just one quarter of white evangelicals in the United States believe that climate change is caused by humans.
A separate Pew poll from 2016 showed that white evangelicals voted overwhelmingly to elect United States President Donald Trump, who has pulled his country out of the Paris agreement, a global pact to curb climate change.
But Hayhoe said it is that same Christianity that fuels her dedication to climate science.
“I study climate change because I think it’s the greatest humanitarian crisis of our times,” she said.
“It exacerbates poverty and hunger and disease and civil conflicts and refugee crises,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Traits that have made Hayhoe uniquely qualified to speak authoritatively in such conservative circles are best summed up by two accolades she has received.
For her work in explaining climate change, Hayhoe has made TIME magazine’s list of most influential people, and she was named one of the 50 Women to Watch by the evangelical magazine Christianity Today.
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