Texas Tech University

A Global Impact

March 29, 2024

A Global Impact

Texas Tech’s Katharine Hayhoe continues to break new ground and lead the way in climate science.

Katharine Hayhoe's research at Texas Tech University is a force multiplier, which is a good thing because she understands better than most that climate change is a threat multiplier.

“It takes every other problem we care about and makes it worse,” she says. “That's why I work on climate change.

“We have so many amazing people doing incredible work on issues like poverty alleviation, economic development in low-income areas and empowering women and children, but climate change is the hole in the bucket, and if we don't patch climate change, we're not able to fix any of these other things.

“I believe you have to stay focused because if you try to fix everything, you wind up fixing nothing. I see my role as helping patch the hole in the bucket so other people can go about their important work of making the world a better place.”

Hayhoe is a Horn Distinguished Professor and Endowed Chair in Public Policy and Public Law in the Department of Political Science at Texas Tech. While that may be her title, her calling is climate science, an area where her cutting-edge research and expertise have made her one of the most respected voices on the planet when it comes to climate change.

She recently served as one of the primary spokespersons for the Fifth National Climate Assessment that was published in November 2023. The report is typically released every four years and outlines both opportunities and threats for the United States in a warming world.

Seeking solutions to one of the world's thorniest and most politically fraught challenges is part of what drew Hayhoe to Texas Tech, where she can work on research and follow science to continue showing the impacts of climate change and how to tackle them.

Katharine Hayhoe
Katharine Hayhoe

“One of the reasons I am in Texas is because this is the most vulnerable state to climate impacts,” she said. “We receive the greatest number of billion-dollar climate disasters of any other state. That's partly because we get everything: tornadoes droughts, heatwaves, floods, wildfires, ice storms and hurricanes. We also have a large population, valuable infrastructure and agricultural land that can be harmed by these disasters.”

As a result, Hayhoe's work zeroes in on preparation and resiliency, arming decision makers with the information they need to build resilient systems and bring stakeholders along with them. From her strategic vantage point, she has seen the landscape change, so to speak, from what needs to happen to what is happening. She believes the conversation about climate change has reached a tipping point and is convinced more people now see the need to transition to a climate-resilient, clean-energy future.

“If you fast forward from where we were 15 years ago, you are seeing solutions implemented right here in Texas,” she said. “We are already the No. 1 wind producer in the country, and as of this past fall, we became the No. 1 solar producer. Many Texas cities and water districts have climate resiliency plans and are figuring out how to build resilience and preparedness into everything they are doing.”

Wind TurbinesSolar Panels
“(Texas is) already the number one wind producer in the country, and as of this past fall, we became the number one solar producer," Hayhoe said.

Maybe most importantly, Hayhoe said critical progress has been made on climate action worldwide, although much remains to be done. Every year, more and more people are eager to get behind initiatives that lead to a better future for subsequent generations: not only new technology like clean energy, electric vehicles and heat pumps, but also smart regenerative agricultural practices and nature positive solutions like green infrastructure that protect cities from flooding and keep them cool during heatwaves.

Hayhoe's voice and work will become even more important in the near term as she wraps up a six-year project that will create the most accurate and highest-resolution climate projections the world has ever known. She has developed a method that can be used anywhere, producing data specific to the region.

“This method can be used anywhere in the world, whether that's Africa, southeast Asia or Texas,” she said. “That is very unusual and very powerful as it is a standardized way to get localized information about how climate change will affect your city or region.”

“Our motto at Texas Tech has been, ‘From Here, It's Possible™,' and over the years that has become personally true for me. From West Texas, I am generating research that can impact the lives of people around the world, and I am very excited about the potential to do that.”

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