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My Climate Story: Coming full Circle

Posted on 14 September 2020 by BaerbelW

This blog post is a follow up to my recap of Al Gore's Climate Reality Leadership Training I recently participated in. One of the exercises we were asked to complete was to write about our respective "Climate Story". This is a slightly updated version to the one I had submitted during the training.


I’ve always been interested in environmental topics and became a member of organisations like the WWF and Greenpeace while still in school many decades ago. Closer to home, I joined an NGO focused on local conservation activities and in 1991 became a volunteer docent at the “Wilhelma”, the zoological and botanical garden in Stuttgart, southern Germany. Due to these activities, I was somewhat aware of climate change but it hadn’t been my main focus which was more on wildlife-related topics like the bushmeat crisis, poaching, deforestation and more. This all changed rather quickly after watching Al Gore’s documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” in - IIRC - 2007 when the film became available in Germany. Shortly after watching the film, I read the accompanying book followed by many others like Elizabeth Kolbert’s “Field Notes from a Catastrophe”, Mark Lynas’ “Six Degrees” or Tim Flannery’s “We Weathermakers” to name just a few.

I also searched for information on the internet where I discovered “Wonderingmind42” -  science teacher Greg Craven - and his “most terrifying video you’ll ever see” on YouTube. This in turn led me to discover his dozens of follow-up videos titled “How it all ends” netting 7+ hours of viewing pleasure as well as the “Manpollo” website and discussion forum one of Greg’s fans had set up to talk about the videos. One thing led to another and all of a sudden I was coordinating translation activities for the subtitles of Greg’s videos and the “Manpollo”-team helped Greg to write his book “What’s the worst that could happen?” which was published in 2009.


While helping with Greg’s book, I happened upon the website Skeptical Science (SkS) which debunks climate misinformation and for which its founder John Cook had just added translation capabilities. By then, I felt knowledgeable enough about the topic to contact John offering to help with translations into German. John quickly updated my SkS account to give me the required access at the beginning of 2010 and a little while later a small team was working on German translations of selected SkS content. As time passed, I also published a blog post now and then for SkS, took over the coordination of all translation activities for the website (by now 25 languages!) and even became co-author of several peer-reviewed studies about the scientific consensus on human-caused global warming (Cook et al. 2013 & 2016 and Skuce et al. 2017).


My EGU2020 presentation “The Story of Skeptical Science” provides more information about the website

Since 2015 I’ve been organizing the forum moderation in our edX MOOC “Denial101x - Making sense of climate science denial”, which - as most of you will already know - is a collaboration between SkS and the University of Queensland. In the MOOC, students learn important basics about climate change, how these basics get regularly distorted and what can be done about it. Over the last couple of years, I’ve also participated in several conferences, used Skeptical Science and John Cook’s material in my own workshops and - lately - webinars to help people identify and counter misinformation when they happen upon it.


Thanks to my involvement with Skeptical Science I got introduced to Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL) in early 2014 when fellow SkS team member Dana Nuccitelli e-introduced me to Nils Petermann who had recently moved back from Washington D.C. and was keen to try and get CCL going in Germany. One year later, a small group met for the first time in Berlin for a workshop and some meetings with MPs to talk with them about carbon pricing. Since then, we’ve been back in Berlin each year (just not in 2020 for obvious reasons!) in slowly but surely growing numbers and have forged many relationships with politicians across the political landscape.


Bürgerlobby Klimaschutz meets in Berlin in 2019 (picture: Elmar Winkler)

Most likely, none of these activities would have come to pass, had I not watched Al Gore’s documentary 13 years ago. So, I feel that attending the Climate Reality Leadership Corps Training now and finally joining the ranks of Climate Reality Leaders, is somehow akin to coming full circle and I’m already looking forward to what comes next!

CRLT Certificate

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Comments 1 to 2:

  1. Time to make some ears burn: It's not really possible to choose and identify a major component of an efficiently operating engine as "the most important." But it's a plain fact that without Bärbel installed into the mechanism of Skeptical Science, delivered horsepower and torque would be much diminished. 

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  2. Good to see Greg Craven getting a mention and the Manpollo crew of whch I was a small part which involved staying up late to ridiculous times researching for Greg's book which is an underappreciatede masterpiece.

    Of course, denialist propaganda has moved on since then and Greg's clever 'assess who's the most credible' argument probably wouldn't help much today - even if we could claim that every single scientist in the world fully endorsed the science it still wouldn't shake their rhetoric much!

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