San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas


Katharine Hayhoe is a one-person demolition team for stereotypes. While she is a highly qualified climatologist with a bachelor’s in physics and astronomy and a doctorate in atmospheric science, her personality has a very down-home and perky effervescence. She deals with the facts of science, yet is an evangelical Christian who finds no conflict between the words of scientific research and the word of God.

Her book, “A Climate For Change: Global Warming Facts For Faith Based Decisions”, co-written with her husband, teaching pastor Andrew Farley, has astonishingly met with the approval of both the scientific community and people of faith. Hayhoe was featured in a PBS Nova documentary “The Secret Life of Scientists and Engineers.”

She is the author of works appearing in more than 50 peer-reviewed publications, worked on the U.S. Academy of Science 2011 report on climate change and has written a guide book and created accompanying videos on how to incorporate climate projections into impact assess for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Hayhoe will deliver Texas State’s Ed Cape Seminar in the Sac-N-Pac Room at the End Zone Complex of Bobcat Stadium at 12:30 p.m. on Jan. 23. The event is free and the public is invited to attend.

We talked with Hayhoe about global warming, the droughts in Texas and water resources.

If you go …

What: Texas State’s Ed Cape Series lecture on Texas water issues

Who: Christian and climatologist Katharine Hayhoe

When: 12:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 23

Where: Sac-n-Pac Room at Bobcat Stadium

San Marcos Mercury: What are the biggest misconceptions about global warming?

Katharine Hayhoe: One: “It’s freezing outside — where’s global warming now?!” We have this idea that every day, or even every year should be warmer; or that it should never snow; or that we shouldn’t ever set a cold temperature record, if global warming is real. The truth is that we are experiencing long-term climate change — over time scales of decades — superimposed on our normal patterns of variability that bring cold and snow as well as heat and drought. It’s true that we are now ,as of the 2000s, breaking our hot temperature records 2x more frequently as our cold ones — but we are still breaking cold temperature records every year. Just because it can still be cold in no way contradicts the reality of a long-term global temperature increase, or warming.

Two: “It’s a political issue: we can’t believe it’s a real problem if we’re a –fill in the blank: Republican, Christian, Conservative, etc..” The reality is that climate change is about thermometers, temperature, melting ice, and rising sea level. These are not blue or red; they aren’t conservative or liberal. They’re facts, observations, and data. Yes, the solutions to climate change ARE political; that is true. But the reality of the problem is not.

Three: “There is still a big debate among scientists as to whether this is even happening.” The reality is that there is virtually no debate among climate scientists on the following points: 1. The earth is warming. 2. The main cause for this warming is the increasing production of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases from human activities. 3. The impacts of climate change are already occurring, and will become more severe and even potentially dangerous the longer we allow this problem to continue unchecked. Yes, scientists love to argue. We could argue for years over the impact of soot particles on cloud formation, or the pathway that Atlantic hurricanes might follow in a warmer world. But those who actually study the earth, and study climate, are not arguing over the reality of this issue. That debate was settled many decades ago. The evidence is overwhelming. Climate change is real.

San Marcos Mercury: You’ve said that global warming is like the warning light on the dashboard. What do you mean by this?

Hayhoe: So far, our planet has warmed by almost 1.5 F (fahrenheit),. This doesn’t sound like a lot. But what most of us don’t realize is that, over the course of human civilization, the temperature of the earth has been mostly as stable as the temperature of our human bodies. When our own temperature goes up by 1.5 F we don’t run for the emergency room immediately. But we do take it as a warning sign. We might take some Tylenol, monitor our temperature throughout the day, watch for other warning signs –like aches and pains, and take action if it looks like things might get worse. In the same way, our planet is now running a low-grade fever. It’s a warning sign that something is not right, something is different.

San Marcos Mercury: How does global warming affect our water resources?

Hayhoe: Here in Texas, water is one of our most important resources. Climate change affects our water resources in at least four ways. First of all, climate change is causing our precipitation patterns to shift around the world. Some places are getting drier, others wetter. In West Texas, for example, over the last few decades our precipitation has started to shift away from the summer –when we grow most of our crops– into winter and spring. We expect a similar trend to continue in the future. In Alaska, on the other hand, it is getting much wetter. These types of changes will affect how we use our water and when it is available. Second, around the U.S. as a whole, the frequency of extreme precipitation is increasing. Some places may still be seeing the same overall annual average amounts of precipitation, but it is falling in heavier, more intense bursts, with longer dry periods in between. This also affects our runoff and our water resources, including reservoir storage and aquifer recharge. Third, as it gets hotter, evaporation increases. This means that more water will be needed to provide the same amount of irrigation in the future as it gets warmer. Fourth, much of the southwestern U.S., although not that much of Texas, depends on water that originally comes from snowpack in the mountains. In California, for example, snowpack accounts for about half of the state’s water resources. As it warms, more of this winter precipitation will fall as rain and less as snow. That means that unless we build even more reservoirs to retain that water, most of the winter precipitation will be lost.

San Marcos Mercury: Texas has experienced some hard droughts lately and our farmers have suffered from this. What can an average farmer do to minimize the damages from the ever-warming climate?

Hayhoe: The best types of actions we can take are the no-regrets ones. West Texas is a great example of that. Here we have a huge agricultural community built in a semi-arid –or as we call it in climate science, “cold desert”– environment. How has it thrived in the past? By depending on the Ogallala aquifer; the result being that in about 60 years we have depleted 50% of that valuable resource. This means we have a problem, irregardless of what climate change may or many not do. It already makes all the sense in the world to conserve our resources and use them wisely. It just so happens that by doing so, we can also ensure that we are able to successfully adapt to increased variability and climate change at the same time.

For farmers, it will mean continuing to do what they already do, but in smarter and more efficient ways. We need to use our water more wisely; explore other ways to grow crops; look to the future, not just next year, when planning.

San Marcos Mercury: You teach a class on science and policy for grad students at Texas Tech. What is the nature of what is learned in a class like this and what disciplines can benefit from it?

Hayhoe: I typically have students from all kinds of different disciplines in my class: everything from sociology to landscape architecture, fish and wildlife to public policy. That’s because climate change is an issue that affects all of us. It affects people, it affects our infrastructure and natural resources, it affects the natural environment, and it certainly affects our policies and planning. We all hear a lot about climate change these days, but we don’t necessarily KNOW a lot about it. So my class covers all the frequently asked questions “how do we know it’s real? it’s us? that it matters?” as well as talking a lot about why it’s important: for everything from the way we design our houses or storm drains to how we plan to grow our food 30 years from now.

San Marcos Mercury: You have also said that opportunity lies in every crisis. What are the opportunities for citizens to assuage the damage of a warming climate?

Hayhoe: Again, the best types of actions we can take to reduce the impact we’re having on our planet are the ones with no regrets. We currently waste so much: energy, water, food. We do things in old, outdated ways –did you know humans have been burning coal for millennia? We are using sources of energy that pollute our air and give our children asthma. Our energy sources already endanger American lives –did you know that as of last year, over 3,000 had died in attacks on fuel convoys? We know that the cheap sources of oil and gas WILL run out on us in this century, maybe even sooner. Doesn’t it make all the sense in the world to do our best to transition to clean, renewable sources of energy that give us clean air, don’t require valuable water resources to extract and burn, as do coal, gas, and even nuclear, invest in the local economy instead of overseas, won’t run out on us. Wouldn’t that ensure a better, healthier, safer, and cleaner future for our children? What an opportunity!

San Marcos Mercury: Your husband, and co-author of “A Climate for Change: Global Warming Facts for Faith-Based Decisions”, is a teaching pastor. Do you ever have any disagreements about environmental issues?

Hayhoe: We do not have any disagreements on the reality of these issues: where we disagree (“if ever” – she smiles) is on potential solutions. And that’s where we ALL should be allowed to disagree, because solutions involve policy and politics, and there is never any one perfect way to do that!

San Marcos Mercury: Like most of the scientific community, you have run up against a certain amount of hostility and disbelief in regards to the still-incendiary topic of Global Warming. I know your science is proof-based and your philosophy is faith-based. How do you explain this to people, particularly fearful ones?

Hayhoe: The author of the book of Hebrews tells us that faith, or belief, is the evidence of things not seen. Science is exactly the opposite: it is the evidence of what we do see with our own eyes in the world around us. From my perspective, science is uncovering what God was thinking when he made the earth and, today, listening to what God’s creation is telling us about what is happening to our planet. All Christians would agree that God’s greatest gift to us was his Son, who gives us spiritual life. However, I think sometimes we forget that the earth is God’s second-greatest gift to us, and it gives us our physical life. It just makes sense to take care of this planet he gave us. Doing so isn’t about worshipping the earth or adopting any pagan practices; it’s about honoring God, being good stewards of the resources He’s entrusted to us, and loving our neighbors, particularly the poor and disadvantaged, many of whom are already being affected by climate change and many more of whom don’t have enough of the resources that we have in such abundance.

San Marcos Mercury: You have worked with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on how to use climate science and climate models to help manage ecosystems. What are the major water issues in the U.S.?

Hayhoe: Here in the U.S. many of our natural systems, including species, are already under pressure because of expanding human development, habitat fragmentation, and air and water pollution. In many cases, climate change could end up being the final straw that breaks the proverbial camel’s back. It’s important to incorporate climate change when planning for the future; otherwise, you could end up preserving a habitat for an endangered species that now lives 200 miles north of their original location because it’s too warm for them to be where they used to; or not planning to deal with an invasive species, such as kudzu –which has now made it all the way north of the border into Canada– thinking that cold temperatures will keep it at bay.

San Marcos Mercury: This is sort off-topic but do you think the culinary/foodie subcultural movement to eat more locally, organically and seasonally could help assuage any climate change damage? I’m thinking here of factory farms and the outsourcing of produce agriculture to countries with more year-round temperate climates, so that the U.S. has a different agricultural profile than it did.

Hayhoe: There are a lot of practical things we can do to reduce the impact we’re having on our planet. The amount of energy expended in growing and transporting our food is definitely one of those areas. Others include how much electricity we use, how efficient our cars are, and how cool we need to keep our houses in the summer–and how warm in the winter. As individuals, we control over forty percent of the U.S.’s production of heat-trapping gases. The choices we make matter!

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16 thoughts on “Q&A: Katharine Hayhoe on the trials of being a Christian climatologist

  1. God give me strength! Faith based climatology is amazing given that there has been no warming for 17 years, which even the holy of holys, the UK Meteorological Office, admitted quietly over Christmas, At the same time CO2 has gone up, so there is no longer a correlation between the temperature record and CO2 levels. In science, there is NO CAUSATION WITHOUT CORRELATION, but in the world of Faith Based Climatology, it would seem, not so much!

    How long will people put up with this scam?

  2. Katharine Hayhoe: One: “It’s freezing outside — where’s global warming now?!” We have this idea that every day, or even every year should be warmer; or that it should never snow; or that we shouldn’t ever set a cold temperature record,

    I’ll just tackle that little bit, as it would take writingan article ten times as long as the above, to answer all the mis-representations and distortions:

    Google ‘ We can expect warmer winters,’ and you will get dozens of stories as to how the snowpack is decreasing; how there is going to be Less snow; How- in the case of Viner of the Met CRU- there is going to be ‘no snow at all.’

    And all the while, snow extent, duration and depth have all been going up.

    We have been repeated told that winters would be growing warmer- hoes does one set NEW cold records, if even the coldest winters, are supposedly going to be increasingly warm, day for day?

    All one has to do is pay attention to what people like hayhoe have been claiming for decades- and then, check out what is actually going on, in the precise areas which they, themselves, have been pointing to.

    It Never seems to come to fruition. Instead, it is going in the opposite direction.

    Please, Please do not take the word of people like hayhoe. Check for yourself. If they say that wildfires are at an all-time high, LOOK at the federal records, which are showing a Decline in wildfires over the past 20 years!

    If they say that ‘hurricanes never struck this region before,’ Look up the easily verifiable Facts, that hurricanes, far more powerful than Sandy, have struck that very region many times before, and have struck that region well into October, November, December and YES, even January.

    Go read the science for yourself, it does NOT require a degree, to understand a scientist when they say ‘Our 320-year study shows a Decreasing trend in land-falling hurricanes.’ Or that hurricanes have become less powerful. Or that the recognized-by-Everyone warming of the globe- which it has done, since the end of the Little Ice Age- is causing more and more hurricanes to turn away from the North American continent, before they would make landfall!

    As I say, I could go on like this for many pages- and ALL of it backed with peer-reviewed research.

    I even invite you to compare, region for region, what the IPCC’s actual science says about weather patterns, vs what they, or hayhoe, claims in the media.

    It Does Not Match.

  3. Thank you council. It takes guts to stare down a mob and do what you think is right. You did it two weeks in a row. Excellent.

  4. Yeah, who cares what those plebeians think anyways? And who cares if posts match up with the subject of the article they concern?

  5. “what most of us don’t realize is that, over the course of human civilization, the temperature of the earth has been mostly as stable as the temperature of our human bodies”

    Excuse me? What? Is this a serious scientific statement?

    Gee, I guess the little ice age (and the Big ice age) and the
    midieval warming period and, and, and – were all within a degree
    or two of some rock-solid stable average room temperature?

    And *all* scientists agree on the three points? *cough cough*

    Pardon my skepticism. /sarc

  6. I am disappointed in Ms. Hayhoe. It was prophesied concerning Jesus (according to the New Testament) that “a bruised stem he will not break off, and a smoldering wick he will not quench.” In other words, He would be careful to not alienate or write-off someone with even a glimmer of faith. Glibly refusing to debate even with stacked odds, and blocking people at the slightest provocation are not actions that exemplify this quality; they appear more like temerity cloaked in bravado to me. Would Jesus have run from a constructive debate or blocked Anthony of I don’t think so. But that is a pretty high standard after all.

  7. Belvin St Belle, your maligned and possible participatory involvement with those that would destroy our beautiful town, rather than to preserve it for those that will follow us, is certainly a blatant testimony to the foolish greed that often threatens San Marcos!This is a bit off the topic, as a result of your comment, even though in some regards it is connected in relation to water use, land use, etc that have cumalative effects on the bigger picture. As far as global warming is concerned, I have more concerns for the potential devastating results of ” glabal cooling” than I do in the false political narrative/ agenda on the opinionated issue of whether “global warming” is an issue, or not. I feel that it is actually more likely just an elaborate plan to sell failed green energy solutions to idiots, dreamed up by Clinton/Gore ( such as ethanol) and a means to line the pockets of morally void actors like Al Gore, Barack Obama and friends, etc. 🙂 jlb

  8. Well if we have global warming the gulf of Mexico will cool down with all the meltoff running down the Mississippi.

  9. What an incredible list of misunderstanding and misconceptions the commenters have rattled off.

    But, I fear there’s little point in even going over the list, because the misconception have been throughly explained in many places, many times over, perhaps being the best repository of climate science accessible to the under-educated layperson – but there are dozens of other sources also, you just gotta poke around

    But if you’re committed to willfully ignoring valid and substantial evidence ~ you will remain blind to it. 🙁

    There’s no describing how incredibly heart-breaking it’s been – these past decades – watching this hubristic crazy Republican Politico driven Climate Science Denial Machine – so crazy up the dialogue – that nothing substantial and actually meaningful has been done to mitigate society’s undeniable impacts on the climate system, {that would be our global heat distribution engine}, something we DEPEND ON FOR EVERYTHING! How blind can people be ???

    Protecting their “Free Corporate Market” is the only dang thing they seem to see.
    Too blind to recognize this society driven build up of our atmosphere’s insulation levels is a threat that’s going to shatter their “Holy Free Market” and the underpinning of The Biosphere that created and nurtured us these past eons.

    With every passing season the future looks clearer, but uglier
    because we the people allowed Politicos to do our thinking for us.
    Oh and because we seem to have totally forgotten about the wonder that is our planet –
    and how important our “environment” is to a healthy life.
    We all shall reap what we’ve allowed them to saw.

    Where is there any awareness or conception of what our “Global Heat Distribution Engine” means among all you folks who deny the rational scientific understanding?

    Atmosphere, Land and Ocean fueled by the radiance of our Sun…
    interwoven with many currents exchanging and moving along energy and mass…
    Temperature gradients, Barometric differentials, masses of moisture flowing around in a dynamic equilibrium….

    The North Pole remains cold, so when warmer air masses get shoved into those regions by more erratic Jet Stream Current behavior {caused by newly exposed Arctic Ocean becoming a heat absorption plate and moist convection current driver – you know, those fearful cascading consequences.}. That cold air has got to go somewhere.

    When extra moist air driven by extra warm ocean, meets displaced Arctic Air Masses, that moisture has only one way to go.

    What I find most disturbing is the Republican Politico’s dependence of “Arguments from Incredulity”… from willfully ignoring valid and substantial evidence.

    Happy Learning

  10. @ Citizen Challenge…..Time to wean yourself from the kool-aid, the DNC is the most vile group of lieing, murdering , thieving trash to ever curse the planet.( Ethanol=DNC=Clinton/Gore=Thieves=Failure=Too busy being a whore instead of a president ) In the past 4 years Obamie has handed his thieving friends more money for failed/ worthless green energy projects than a centurys worth of valid energy subsidies for valid energy companies, etc. Find a commune and sing kum-bah-yah to each other. Your group of juice guzzlers would have a little more credence if you were not all seeking a free ride on other peoples backs, avoiding taxes,etc 🙂 Yes, look in the mirror,YOU WHO LIKES TO HEAR THEIR OWN VOICE, it is the failed ideals of the Demonrat Politico that have destroyed our country 🙂 Sorry world, the nausea of the lies got the best of me….:-) jlb

  11. Ms. Hayhoe claims in your interview:

    “over the course of human civilization, the temperature of the earth has been mostly as stable as the temperature of our human bodies.”

    I think, if she studied the following Global Temperature records, she may find that statement is not correct:

    Global Temperature Record
    CET 472 years

    600 Years Arctic Temperatures

    1,100 Years Ljundgqvist et al

    2,000 years – J Esper et al

    2,400 years

    3,000 years

    4,000 years – GreenWorldTrust

    10,000 years Greenland GISP2 Ice Core

    10,000 years GISP2 (Greenland) Ice Core

    10,000 years Vostock (Antarctic)

    10,000 years Greenland (GISP2) Ice Core

    11,000 years GISP2 temperatures with CO2 from EPICADomeC

    140,000 years Vostock Ice Core Data

    400,000 years Vostock Ice Core Data

    5,500,000 years Vostock Antarctica Ice Core

  12. Jaimy, you dishonor yourself! You are resorting to personal attacks, slurs, denigration, reducto absurdism, and any number of poorly referenced Fox talking points! Give us some substance instead of the Jerry Springer! Use logical arguments instead of resorting to belittling others groups and personal attacks. This just makes you look bad. You have a good mind. Use it!

  13. I am always amused when Fox news is referred to as non-truth by those trying to peddle the falsehoods of the green agenda fiasco.Subsidizing thieves gains us nothing, as we have learned the past 6 years since they came into control of power in our country. SOS. I say start utilizing the things that we know work, and stop subsidizing the con-artists 😉 PS- More taxpayer money was handed to failed/bankrupt green business scams in the past 4 years than decades of subsidies spent for proven energy research and developement in valid fossil fuel programs. The truth stings, no doubt. 🙂 jlb

  14. Dear can you explain why this comment is being rejected for inclusion with this discussion ?



    Jaimy Lamar Breihan, if you believe everything you say you’re deaf to any reasoning, but I’ll bite anyways.

    What’s my complain about the Republicans (not necessarily GOP) driven science attack ‘think tanks’ got to do with all your ranting about the Democratic Party?

    {For what it’s worth, I share some of your contempt for Mr Clinton “Mr Reagan light with a twist of liberal” who was too filled up with his own ego to appreciate the critical importance of his position.}
    ~ ~ ~

    But back to your rant:
    Mind you
    It’s the Bush/Cheney administration who were so caught up in their own ego-trip to care about paying any attention to America’s Security and allowing 9/11 to go down.

    It’s the Republican party who railroaded our country into a supremely counter-productive and totally unnecessary war of convenience and private-profit in Iraq. While allowing the real perpetrators to run and hide and glory in their victory for another decade (to say nothing of putting truth behind the lies Bin Laden was telling his people about America) – -and it took President Obama (Dem) to finally do the one act of aggression and violence 9/11 demanded – that is, to get the actual thugs that masterminded the deed.

    {Oh and about that war that every thoughtful person knew ahead of time – was going to be incredibly self-destructive to America and the future. – check this bit of fresh news:}
    ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

    But, more to my point, it’s the Republican Reaganomics crowd, that convinced American “too much is never enough” and “profits-über-alles” was America’s job one.
    And that Earth’s resources and biosphere were “Externalities” to be treated with contempt and derision… and that profits and ever bigger gas guzzlers was all that matters.

    Even worse than those monstrosities is the malicious “right wing ‘think tanks'” driven attack on science where dirty-tricks and winning rather than learning is job one.


  15. Citizen Challenge, and whichever monickers you choose. I have no desire to debate this construed political issue, it is absurdly clear that facts have been exaggerated in order to redirect energy dollars to the Al Gore thioeves of the owrld, and that his was the entire purpose of the contrived ” Global Warming” ” climate change ” argument. And bu the way, THANKS BILL CLINTON AND AL GORE FOR 911, YOUR ISOLATIONIST TACTICS WORKED! 🙂

  16. It was GWB administration that weened the information required to eventually find OBL, oh the dreaded waterboard techniques, so horrilble, we are better off killing women and children with drones I suppose 🙂 To the article, reasonable attempts to conserve energy, private innovation, not pay backs to failed Obammie campaign contributers would make sense. When a thief, liar and enemy of Americas founding principles, like Obama, is president, we are faced with a multitude of immoral activities/ agendas specifically designed to destroy that which is good and worthy in our country. This is the difference, the facts are what they are. The proof is in the pudding ya might say! 🙂 PS- IF YOU DON’T WASTE ENERGY, MANY OF OUR PROBLEMS WOULD NOT EXIST…CONSERVE!jlb

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