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Ask Katharine Your Questions

ByTom MillerThe Secret Life of Scientists and EngineersThe Secret Life of Scientists and Engineers

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When was the last time you got to ask a climate change evangelist a question?

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That’s what we thought.

Keep on reading, folks.

Q: Rodney

Watching the US from afar, I do tend to lose hope that evangelical Christians can ever be sensible (aka work in a scientific manner). Thanks for proving me wrong, even if you are a Canadian ring-in

My question is outside your field but I’m sure you’ve given it some thought: Evangelical Christians are usually creationists, reading Genesis literally, and are highly critical of the theory of evolution. Where do you stand on this?


Dear Rodney,

Excellent question–you have put your finger squarely on what I believe is one of the biggest reasons holding evangelical Christians back from agreeing with the science of climate change.

Many people I’ve talked to believe that if they agree with scientists about climate change, then they also have to agree about the age of the earth. I believe, on the other hand, that nothing could be further from the truth. (If I knew how to bold that statement, I would, because I think it’s an essential point to make!) I think it’s so important that my husband and I, who have agreed to disagree on the age of the earth, state this right up front on the very first page of our book, A Climate for Change.

Large-scale human influence on climate began no more than a few hundred years ago. If the earth is less than 10,000 years old, then we have absolutely no evidence for large natural cycles of any kind. (Again, in our book we actually plotted temperature and carbon dioxide over the last 6,000 years – you can see the plot here: … The present-day rise in global temperature and heat-trapping gas levels is even more unusual and alarming than if the earth is much older and the 800,000 year ice core records are accurate. So if anything, a young earth makes our current problem much MORE worrisome than it already is (!).

The science that I and my colleagues do (see for example this National Academy of Sciences report I recently co-authored: clearly tells us that we have only a very narrow window of time to take decisive action to limit the risk of some very dangerous consequences. From that perspective, I couldn’t care less how old anyone thinks the earth is or is not. We have all the time in the world to work out our issues on that topic–but we are rapidly running out of time to solve the climate problem.

So to answer your question, I prefer to divert any discussion of science and faith that is digging its trenches around the evolution and age of the earth issue towards the much more important issue of climate, where there is absolutely no basis for any disagreement between the Bible and science.


Q: Thaddeus Du Bois

The video presentation was awesome! Your husband is a lucky man, you’re smokin’ hot, super smart and a blessing to us all. Thank you so much for your work!

A: Katharine Hayhoe

My husband has duly noted your remarks!

Original funding for "The Secret Life of Scientists and Engineers" was provided by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.