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Katharine Hayhoe, a renowned Texas Tech climate change researcher and mother of a 13-year-old son, Gavin, is certain of this: a mother's love can fuel the charge to care for the planet and stop climate change.
"The most important thing to us, as mothers, is the future of our kids, and climate change affects that future," she tells PEOPLE in this week's issue. "It affects the air our kids breathe and the food they eat."
In January, Hayhoe, who is joining the Nature Conservancy as chief scientist, and seven other scientist-moms launched Science Moms (sciencemoms.com), a nonprofit dedicated to providing global warming facts and simple, quick action steps to help save the planet, including a reading list of books for kids, and ways to talk to your family about climate change.
"I think it's so important to have moms talking to moms because we understand there is no time to waste with things that don't really make a difference," she says. "We have to cut to the chase."
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LEXEY SWALL/The New York Times/Redux Katharine Hayhoe
"The number one thing any of us can do," she adds, "is use our voices to advocate for change. It's not too late to avoid the worst impacts if we act now."
Hayhoe is also an evangelical Christian (her husband is a pastor) and an Earth-loving believer.
"I am a climate scientist because I am a Christian," she says. "If you take the Bible seriously, in Genesis it says God gave humans responsibility over every living thing on this planet. It talks about God's love and care for the tiniest and most minute aspects of nature."
Growing up in Ontario, Canada, the daughter of a science teacher dad, Hayhoe loved learning how the universe works. She was set on becoming an astrophysicist — "I just think it's incredible we can build the Hubble telescope to study the far reaches of the universe, that just blows me away," she says — until taking a college class in climate science, and learning the dire effects of the warming of the earth.
That "really changed the whole trajectory of my life," she says. "I mean, if the whole temperature of the planet was warming by two or three or four degrees, but that was the only thing that was happening, so what?"
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"But it is messing with our weather, creating what I call global weirding. We see that hurricanes are getting bigger and stronger, wildfires are burning more area, floods are getting much more devastating, the sea level's rising," she says. "And this affects literally our food, it affects our water, it affects the safety of our homes."
Hayhoe's advocacy includes authoring books; her latest, Saving Us: A Climate Scientist's Case for Hope and Healing in a Divided World, is out in September.
"To care about climate change we often feel like we have to be a certain type of person, like an environmentalist or a tree hugger," she says. "But the reality is, every single one of us already has all the reasons we need to care."