Voices from Common Ground

Who's Worried About Global Warming?

Five unexpected agitators on climate explain why they're speaking out. 


Photo Credit: Nigel Parry/CPi Syndication

Henry Paulson
Chicago, Illinois
Former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury; Co-Chair, Risky Business Project

I’m deeply concerned that climate change is a brewing crisis—much like the financial crisis of 2008—that poses massive risk to our economy and the quality of life for future generations.

There are some who believe that even if we took steps to diminish the manmade impacts of climate change, we couldn’t possibly do enough to curb its catastrophic effects. But we simply can’t throw up our hands and bury our heads in the sand.

I’ve spent my life managing risk, and I believe we need to manage climate risk the way we manage economic risk—and we need to do so before the excesses are so great that it’s too late.

The good news is if we act immediately, we can still avoid most of the worst impacts of climate change, and significantly reduce the odds of costly, catastrophic outcomes on the environment—and, in turn, our economy.

Also, we know that the most severe risks can still be avoided through early investments in resilience and other immediate actions we can take now to reduce the pollution that causes global warming. The bottom line is that we must start changing our business and public policy decisions today.


Photo Credit: Nigel Parry/CPi

Katharine Hayhoe
Lubbock, Texas
Climate Scientist, Texas Tech University

When I talk to people, I start with my values. I don’t bring out thermometer data and start hitting them over the head with it. I share what’s in my heart, why I care about this issue, why I think it’s important, why I think they might want to start caring about it, too. Then I talk about the facts.

As a scientist, I can say there are some absolute truths about climate change. You can have an opinion, and I can have an opinion. But whether the planet is warming is not an opinion. It’s a fact.

We’re being fed incorrect information all the time. People are stuffed full of sound bites, like “It’s freezing outside, where is global warming now?” or, “God’s in control, so it’s all going to work out in the end.”

The biggest hurdle is just getting people to listen. Many of us think that if we accept that the climate is really changing, and that humans are responsible, it threatens our worldview. And many people feel that doing something about it will—fill in the blank: will destroy the economy, will infringe on people’s personal liberties. Or it’s anti-Christian, it’s anti-conservative, it’s anti-Republican.

I think there’s a perception that we need to acquire a whole new set of values. But the reality is that to care about climate change we just have to be human, we have to live on this planet, we have to want a better world for ourselves and for our kids. And as a Christian, I believe the Bible is very clear that we are to love others as Christ loved us, which gives us even more reasons to care.


Photo Credit: Nigel Parry/CPi

Nick Mullins
Berea, Kentucky
Fourth-Generation Coal Miner, Climate Change Activist

When I failed to secure a job that could provide the money I believed necessary to give my children a better future, I became the fourth generation to work underground.

Eventually I realized that coal mining was much more destructive and detrimental to community health than we had originally thought. I came to the realization that earning a high wage to provide my children with a “better future” was not important when we are contaminating and destroying the environment along with their future health.

I was raised in a time when miners understood coal companies were only interested in profit, and a time when community was still strong. I know that we can bring our communities back together and rekindle the flames of hope for future generations—that we can avoid a life bent to the corporate greed of extractive industries.

Younger miners and those most loyal to the coal companies often take offense at our anti-coal-industry positions. Some accuse me of turning my back on my fellow coal miners. On occasion, though, coal miners who understand the dynamics of the coal industry offer up their support.

I fear nothing will happen until people are faced with imminent job loss and they begin to see beyond the “war on coal” propaganda being issued by the coal industry and the politicians it supports.

If we could loosen the industry’s grip on the political and economic systems within coal extraction regions, I know we could redevelop the economy, possibly even bringing manufacturing and technological innovation jobs in the energy-efficiency sector. We have an amazing opportunity to become the “region that could.”


Photo Credit: Nigel Parry/CPi

Susan Collins
Bangor, Maine
U.S. Senator (R-ME)

Climate change is a significant threat and a challenge that requires international cooperation and global solutions in order to reduce greenhouse gas pollution worldwide. I participated in a congressional delegation trip to Antarctica in January of 2006 that left a deep impression about the need to tackle global climate change, its causes, and its effect on our planet. At McMurdo Station, I met with scientists, including some from my home state of Maine, who were playing important roles in climate science research.

I also had the opportunity to visit New Zealand briefly. We could clearly see the glacial moraines, where dirt and rocks had been pushed up in piles around the glacial terminus in 1860. I thought it was remarkable to stand in a place where some 140 years ago I would have been covered in tens or hundreds of feet of ice, and then to look far up the mountainside and see how distant the edge of the ice had become.

I’ve always maintained that it is a false choice to pit the environment versus the economy. I can tell you from experience, the environment is the economy. From tourism and recreation to our working forests to our fishing and agricultural industries, Maine’s economy is inextricably linked to our environment.

I believe in the power of compromise, informed by the latest scientific data, to make a difference. By sitting down and working together to find common ground, we have proven that it is possible to break through the partisan gridlock to find reasonable solutions to some of our most pressing problems.


Photo Credit: Nigel Parry/CPi

Ben Lowe
Glen Ellyn, Illinois
Young Evangelicals for Climate Action

Climate change is already happening and is having far-reaching environmental and humanitarian impacts. Jesus taught that the most important thing is to love God and love our neighbor. I can’t love God faithfully unless I care for the world that he created, sustains, and calls us to be part of restoring. Similarly, I can’t love my neighbors fully without taking action to address climate impacts, especially when communities that have contributed the least to this problem are often suffering the most.

There has been unnecessary polarization through misinformation and partisan politics. Efforts to sow doubt and confusion about climate science, the integrity of the scientific process, the efficacy of available solutions, and the biblical imperative for Christians to engage have been sadly effective over the years. Climate action has also too often come to be viewed as a left versus right political issue when it really should be understood as a moral issue that transcends partisan divides and requires our best ideas, innovation, and cooperation to solve. Dispelling myths, bringing clarity, and building bridges are all important tasks for Christians today.

About 76 percent of the U.S. population self-identifies as Christian, and roughly one in every three Americans consider themselves evangelical. We have an integral and strategic role to serve in overcoming climate change.

By coming together and responding faithfully today, we can reduce carbon pollution, care for those experiencing harmful climate impacts, invest in clean energy technologies, unleash new waves of innovation, create jobs that sustain rather than destroy creation, and promote responsible development in our communities and around the world.

Birds at Risk

Explore more birds threatened by climate change around the country.

Allen's Hummingbird
Baird's Sparrow
Bald Eagle
Brown Pelican
Burrowing Owl
Cerulean Warbler
Common Loon
Eastern Whip-poor-will
Golden Eagle
Greater Sage-Grouse
Hooded Oriole
Mississippi Kite
Northern Shoveler
Piping Plover
Ruffed Grouse
Rufous Hummingbird
Spotted Owl
Tundra Swan
White-throated Sparrow
Yellow-billed Magpie

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