Science and Faith Can Solve Climate Change Together

Moral conviction, backed by facts, could finally inspire global action, Katharine Hayhoe argues for Scientific American.

It has been almost a quarter century since the majority of nations signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, agreeing to “limit dangerous anthropogenic [human] interference with the climate system.” And yes, nearly 25 years since the world agreed to prevent serious impacts on global food supply, the natural environment and the economy.

This December, 195 nations will be heading to Paris for the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) to discuss yet again how to accomplish what they all promised nearly a generation ago. As you can imagine, the question on everyone’s mind is, “Will this time be any different?”

As you can imagine, the question on everyone’s mind is, ‘Will this time be any different?

Climate science has certainly advanced across this time frame. Our global climate models zoom down to finer and finer resolutions; our satellites reveal remote corners of the globe; we increase our understanding of the response of giant ice sheets and deep ocean currents to a warming planet.

But more science is not the answer to global action. The first observations of human-induced climate change were published in 1938. The first U.S. president to be formally warned of the dangers of climate change was Lyndon B. Johnson, in 1965. The diplomatic arguing has not been about the science; it has been about what we are willing to do to prevent that danger. And that has a lot more to do with the values in our hearts than the facts in our heads.

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