Time 100

Katharine Hayhoe

Katharine Hayhoe, an increasingly well-known climate scientist and climate-science communicator at Texas Tech University, has been named by Time magazine as a member of its Time 100 list for 2014 – a roster of “the 100 most influential people in the world.”

Hayhoe recently agreed to serve on an advisory committee for Texas Climate News. [See disclosure note below.]

Texas Tech, where Hayhoe is an associate professor and director of the university’s Climate Science Center, issued an announcement on Thursday about the recognition by Time that included this comment from her:

I am honored to be included in the Time 100 list. Even more so, I am encouraged to see climate change emerging as an urgent concern. With 97 percent of climate scientists agreeing that climate change is happening due to the choices people make every day, I am a spokesperson with one principal goal – to bring public awareness to the simple truth that the scientific debate is over, and now it’s time for all of us to take action. I’m grateful to Time for bringing further visibility to my work and to everyone who is standing up to climate change around the world.

The Lubbock university’s announcement also had this statement by Texas Tech President M. Duane Nellis:

This is a tremendous honor and recognition for Dr. Hayhoe and her diligence in researching this important issue. Her passion and caliber of work provides a snapshot of the high quality of faculty we have at Texas Tech University.

Hayhoe’s research focuses largely on projecting and assessing the future impacts of manmade climate change. Among many other professional activities, she was a lead author of the forthcoming Third National Climate Assessment, produced by a consortium of 13 federal departments and agencies. That assessment, scheduled to be released on May 6, is “the most comprehensive peer-reviewed analysis of climate change’s impacts in the United States,” Texas Tech said.

Besides being recognized for her scientific work, Hayhoe is known as an evangelical Christian who has sought to persuade fellow evangelicals and other religious conservatives that climate scientists’ projections about human-caused global warming are sound and deserve their attention.

Toward that end, she her husband, Andrew Farley, an evangelical pastor and associate professor of applied linguistics at Texas Tech, co-authored a 2009 book, A Climate for Change: Global Warming Facts for Faith-Based Decisions.

In the book, they acknowledge that many conservative Christians “associate global warming with a certain agenda,” but argue that is “not about blue politics or red politics or any kind of politics. It’s about thermometer readings and history. It’s about facts and figures. It’s about reality.”

The article about Hayhoe for the Time 100 list – written by Don Cheadle, an actor who appears with her in a segment of a Showtime documentary about climate change – focuses on the intersection of her scientific work with her faith:

There’s something fascinating about a smart person who defies stereotype. That’s what makes my friend Katharine Hayhoe — a Texas Tech climatologist and an evangelical Christian — so interesting.

It’s hard to be a good steward of the planet if you don’t accept the hard science behind what’s harming it, and it can be just as hard to take action to protect our world if you don’t love it as the rare gift it is. For many people, that implies a creator.

Hayhoe has been quoted on a number of occasions in Texas Climate News. Most recently, for an April 12 article on the recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change about impacts, adaptation and vulnerability, she told TCN that the summary of relevant research findings since a 2007 IPCC report “highlights how climate change is expected to interact with, and in many cases exacerbate, problems we already struggle with today in Texas: water shortages, rising sea levels, coastal storms and hurricanes, heavy rain and flood events, extreme heat.”

The Time 100 list also included influential individuals on the other side of the climate issue, including Rand Paul, the libertarian Republican senator from Kentucky, who grew up in the Brazoria County city of Lake Jackson, south of Houston.

The brief Time article about Paul – written by Kentucky’s other U.S. senator, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell – does not mention his views on climate change. But Huffington Post reported in 2011 that Paul, in a Senate debate, had “mocked concerns about global warming, rising sea levels and endangered polar bears.”

This week, Paul expressed doubt about the consensus view of a vast majority of climate scientists reflected in an IPCC report last fall. The report said it is “unequivocal” the climate is warming, many observed changes are “unprecedented over decades to millennia,” and it is “extremely likely” – at least 95 percent certain, the same level of certainty scientists have that smoking causes cancer – that “human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.”

However, Huffington Post reported that in an event in Chicago on Tuesday, Paul, a physician, said, “Anybody who’s ever studied any geology knows that over periods of time, long periods of time, that the climate changes, mmkay? I’m not sure anybody exactly knows why. … So somebody tell me what 100 years’ data is in an Earth that is 4.6 billion years old? My guess is that the conclusions you make from that are not conclusive.”

Others on the Time 100 list include the singer Beyonce, Pope Francis, President Barack Obama, President Vladimir Putin of Russia, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Fox News’ Washington bureau chief Megyn Kelly and General Motors CEO Mary Barra.


[Disclosure: Katharine Hayhoe recently agreed to be a member of an advisory committee for Texas Climate News. The panel, to comprise scientists, journalists and others distinguished in their fields, is in the process of being assembled. When this committee becomes active, the volunteer members will have no authority over TCN’s editorial decisions, which will continue to be made solely by our independent editors and writers. On occasion, we may report on TCN’s advisors, their work and their publicly stated views. If so, we will strive to do it impartially and in keeping with the same standard we announced when Texas Climate News was introduced in 2008: “We publish public-interest journalism, based on traditional principles of independent-mindedness, accuracy and fairness.” We will disclose advisors’ membership on the committee in articles that report on them.]

– Bill Dawson

Image credit: Texas Tech University