Katharine Hayhoe on Assessing Climate Change Factually

Award-winning climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe is an atmospheric scientist who was the lead author on last year’s damning U.S. national climate assessment. She argues when it comes this vital issue, we need to crunch the numbers, rather than rely on anyone’s faith or political ideology.

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And you've also said that a thermometer is neither liberal nor conservative.

So tell me how you are tackling this highly politicized highly ideological battle over whether humans are responsible for this climate change.

I have a conversation just about every day with someone who rejects the science of climate change and when they do so they typically throw up what I think of as science the sounding myths.

It's just a natural cycle they say are you scientists are just making this up to line your pockets or sometimes they throw up religious sounding myths.

If God's in control this could never happen.

Are the earth's going to end anyways.

But if we let people talk more than about 30 seconds immediately the conversation will take a right turn.

Into I don't want a price on carbon.

I've heard that fixing climate change will destroy the economy.

I wouldn't be able to drive my truck anymore if we have limits on carbon.

Just about all of the objections that I have heard the genuine objections to action on climate have everything to do with solution A.

The fact that we fear the solutions more than we fear the impacts we think the solutions will destroy our way of life and lead to much lower quality of life than we enjoy today whereas we view the impacts as very distant and far off. They don't really matter to us.

So to address this I have to do two things that are very uncomfortable for scientists to do.

The first thing is rather than engaging with people from the head as we often do with data and facts and charts and figures I have to engage with people from the heart sharing with them from my own her why I care why this matters to me and to people that I care about and love.

Then the second thing I have to do is something that we scientists are not trained to do and that's why we need everybody on board helping with this.

We have to talk solutions.

And so I love talking about examples of where companies like a solar panel manufacturer in San Antonio took an oil patch workers who lost their jobs when oil prices dropped and retrain them to do solar panel manufacturing or the fact that a Chinese company went into Wyoming and trained coal miners in Wyoming to do wind energy installations.

We need to think to the future and people who work very hard.

Like Coal Miners deserve the opportunity to continue to contribute to the new clean energy economy.

Much of the backlash as you've just described also includes sort of a faith based backlash.

Can you explain to us how you explain to your faith based community that you can have faith and be a committed Christian and also be a really rigorous atmospheric scientist as you are.

So when people say oh you know God's in control so humans can't affect the planet.

I point them to Genesis one where it says that God gave us humans responsibility over every living thing on this planet.

About This Episode EXPAND

Christiane Amanpour speaks with Lawrence Summers about President Trump’s proposed all and the government shutdown; and Katharine Hayhoe about the numerical facts of climate change. Hari Sreenivasan continues his conversation with actor and musician Lenny Kravitz.