On Monday evening Texas Tech professor Dr. Katharine Hayhoe will sit down with President Obama and Leonardo DiCaprio to discuss the effects of climate change at the first ever South by South Lawn festival.
South by South Lawn is the president’s version of South by Southwest. He attended this year’s festival in Austin, and feeling inspired created a similar festival at the White House for creators and innovators.
Hayhoe, who has spoken to several global audiences and has traveled to various places to share her work and research says Monday’s event will be a first of sorts.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to travel all around the world and talk to amazing, fascinating people, but I have never talked to a president before though,” said Hayhoe. “So it’s going to be quite an experience!”
I am just one of thousand climate scientist that have dedicated their lives to studying this problem, understanding it and talking to people about it. So, the fact that they picked me out of all the people that would deserve such an honor is very amazing and humbling,” said Hayhoe.
Aaron Flores, a graduate student and teaching assistant within the Texas Tech Department of Geosciences, says that he is proud of his professor and that in his time as a student of hers, she has greatly influenced his career choices.
“I’m learning from possibly the most pronounced climate science communicator of our time. When it’s all said and done, very few people will have been able to sit in front of her and learn. I’m confident she will go down in history as one of the most influentials scientists ever,” said Flores. “I wish she was taking me with her. I can’t believe the professor of one of my classes at Texas Tech will be in the White House on Monday talking to two more people who have had such a wonderful influence on peoples’ lives all over the world.”
A Toronto native, Hayhoe says West Texas, and the state as a whole, has provided her an excellent place to further her research in climate change.
“We’re a little like canary in the mine. We already have crazy weather extremes. We have drought, floods, ice storms and heat. We are seeing the impacts of a changing climate right here in Texas, in many ways we’re like Ground Zero for the impacts, but we’re also Ground Zero for how we as humans interact with the science,” said Hayhoe.
Another important focus in Hayhoe’s work is her emphasis on faith, and balancing it with what she finds in her research, something that tends to separate her from many others in her field of work.
“Science can tell us a lot of information. Science can tell us that the climate is changing, and it’s not just thermometers and satellites telling us,” said Hayhoe. “But science can’t tell us what to do about it, and that’s where our values come in, and for many of us, a lot of our values come from our faith. I’m a Christian, I believe that in Genesis, God told us that we as humans have a responsibility over every living thing on this planet.”