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author's profile photo Bärbel Winkler

Let's talk climate science to break climate silence

One of the most important things we can do to actually tackle human-caused climate change is to talk about it whenever an opportunity presents itself(*) - something many of us don't do for many different reasons. As you may already have noticed - i.e. via my recent comment to Svea Becker's Work life balance thread or Jerry Janda's MoM interview with me - I 'm all for ending "climate silence". Which is why it didn't take much encouragement in the form of likes or replies to make me start this thread!

To not make this too long a post, I'll briefly outline - with links - why and how I spend most of my spare time on this important topic. You can then use the comments to ask questions or to let me know where you'd like to get more information.


I've always been interested in the environment and conservation, so after watching Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth in 2007, it wasn't a big step for me to add climate change to my list of interests. I began to read books about the topic and scoured the internet for reliable information, making it ever clearer that this was a topic in dire need to get attention and to tackle. I also got ever more concerned the more I learned about it.


Sometime in 2009 I happened upon the website Skeptical Science (SkS) which had (and still has!) a big list of rebuttals to climate myths neatly sorted in a taxonomy of "It's not happening", '"It's not us", "It's not bad" and "It's too hard". Earlier in 2009, the website's creator John Cook had added translation capabilities to SkS and - even though I don't have a science background - I thought that I could help with translations into German and sent John an email. The rest, as they say, is history.


One thing let to another, like organising the translations into German within a small team and with the help of a wiki, publishing my first blog post in 2011, becoming a co-author on Quantifying the consensus on anthropogenic global warming in the scientific literature one of the most often cited (and attacked!) consensus studies published thus far (just search for "Cook et al. 2013" to see what I mean!), being involved with the development and running of our massive open online course (MOOC) "Denial101x - making sense of climate science denial" from the first idea to its now 12th iteration since 2015 (next run starts on March 5, 2019), mingling with scientists - and meeting SkS team members - at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall Meeting in 2016 to visiting and presenting at the European Geoscience Union (EGU) General Assembly in 2018.

What else?

Through an e-introduction initiated by one of the other volunteers who help with Skeptical Science, I got involved with Citizens' Climate Lobby where I'm now active in the German "Bürgerlobby Klimaschutz" and also liase Europe-wide activities which mostly happens via a weekly conference call on Monday evenings.

Sorry, that got much longer than intended! For even more - like a list of the blog posts I've published on SkS - please check my profile page:


(*) Don't take my word for it, but watch Katharine Hayhoe's engaging TedTalk about this or read what sustainability experts have to say.

* Please Login or Register to Comment on or Follow discussions.


  • Feb 11, 2019 at 10:03 PM

    You see a lot of the lists of things we can do to help in terms of climate change but I suspect that works for those who understand it's happening and want to change. The term "climate silence" is a new one for me, are there simple things I can do to point someone at or suggest to them? I've always found you either believe, or don't care I'm not sure I've ever encountered a middle ground but maybe I just did not recognise it. What can we do to help end the silence constructively?

    The debunking items on the SkS site are really interesting, will need to dive into that more.

  • Feb 12, 2019 at 12:05 PM

    Here are my thoughts about #FridaysForFuture Joachim Rees asked about in the other thread:

    I‘ve been following this from „inception“ when Greta Thunberg went on „school strike for the climate“ in Sweden last summer before the general elections there. From the beginning, I was fascinated by her stance, way with words and action and was happy to see it spill to other places and countries. One of my friends who is active with CCL in Sweden had joined Greta during her initial school strike days and he also met her parents and talked with her family at length. From his information and from what all I‘ve seen of her since, I‘m convinced that she‘s as authentic as can be. If you like to read more about her - in her own words - here is the link to a recent article based on one of her Facebook posts. She wrote it about a week ago when false claims about her and her family started to make the rounds on social media and elsewhere:

    What Greta started is now not just a European grass-roots movement but it‘s spreading all across the world. Thousands of teenagers go on strike regularly and in quite astonishing numbers in some cities. Here is a link to Greta‘s Instagram-account where she tries to keep up with pictures of strikes as she becomes aware of them (and as her time allows!).

    Since November, school strikes are for example also happening in Canada, where Sophia Mathur was - IIRC - the first kid (she‘s 11) to follow in Greta‘s footsteps. As luck would have it, I know her mother Cathy Orlando well as she‘s with CCL in Canada and also liases with the international CCL-groups and she‘s been telling us about Sophia‘s intention to go on strike one Friday per month and how they organise e.g her Twitter-activities (@SophiaMathur). Sophia recently made an appearance on Canadian broadcast radio and had her first LTE published. Quite an accomplishment for an 11-year old girl!

    As you can tell from this comment, I‘m in awe of what these kids and teenagers are doing and it gives me at least some hope that - if they stay strong and get the support they need and deserve - they‘ll be(come) a force to be reckoned with!

    • Mar 15, 2019 at 09:17 PM

      Today was the biggest school strike yet with participants in well over 100 countries and numbering up to 1 Mio all told. I took parts of the day off to join #FridaysForFuture Stuttgart and even though it was a dreary and drizzly day, there were about 3,000 people at the event according to the police and organisers.

      Here is a picture of me and my sign:

      It's really neat to see that the kids get "it" and how they get organized to make their voices heard! Let's help make sure that these voices don't fall on deaf ears!

  • Feb 12, 2019 at 09:04 PM

    Thanks so much for pointing out the Skeptical Science website, and especially the rebuttal "taxonomy" -- what a great resource! And thanks much, much more for all the work you're doing on this critical issue.

  • Feb 14, 2019 at 05:28 PM

    I just happened upon a new video produced by Peter Sinclair for Yale Climate Connections. In it, statements from Greta Thunberg are interspersed with statements from climate scientists and footage of climate change impacts. It sure makes this a compelling plea on climate as the title implies. But don't take my word for it - better watch it yourself!

  • Feb 15, 2019 at 04:27 PM

    This is a great and important subject.

    What I'm seeing is that apart from denial the issue is that even people who agree and understand simply feel overwhelmed and powerless. In addition to offering people facts we also need to offer specific actions a single person could take to help. E.g. in your case you chose to help by contributing to this project. What could others do?

    • Feb 15, 2019 at 07:46 PM

      Thanks for your comment, Jelena!

      The article "16 Sustainability Leaders Weigh In: How YOU Can Help To Reverse Global Warming" (which I linked to in the "footnote" of my OP) contains several suggestions for specific actions somebody could take. Not all of them will work for everybody but everybody could find something in the "list" for themselves.

      Climate scientist Michael Mann for example states "[..]That means we must vote in politicians who favor action, vote out those who don’t, and put as much pressure as possible (in the form of activism, letter-writing, organizing, you name it) on our policymakers to act now.” Stefan Rahmstorf, a German oceaonagrapher, makes the same point: "Always vote for candidates and parties that work for climate protection.”

      Katharine Hayhoe mentions "The single most important thing we can do about climate change is, talk about it!" which is also the tenor of several others quoted in the article, like for example John Cook.

      Last but not least, check out Citizens' Climate Lobby (CCL) which I mentioned somewhat in passing in the OP, but which is a great opportunity for folks like you and me to get actively involved, to lobby for something concrete, namely a price on carbon ideally in combination with a dividend payed back to the citizens on a per capita basis. CCL's effort are behind Canada's new carbon pricing legislation and the bipartisan carbon pricing bill recently introduced in Washington D.C. My blog post from May 2017 Citizens’ Climate Lobby - Pushing for a price on carbon globally provides an overview about CCL and how it works.

      Anything for you in these suggestions and/or do you have any others?

      • Mar 04, 2019 at 09:26 AM

        These are really great links, thanks for sharing Bärbel!

        When I travel to other countries or even see people in Germany that are rather unconscious about their actions (e.g. throwing plastic garbage in the nature or wasting food) who say things like "what impact do I have as individual if the rest of people aren't living sustainable either", it is frustrating. That's why it is really great to learn in this discussion about the good initiatives and people coming together who take global warming serious and take action in their daily lives. I agree with Jelena, that it is important to show these people how they can be sustainable even if it looks like a small action from a single person.

  • Feb 26, 2019 at 08:49 PM

    Next week Tuesday - March 5 - we'll start the next self-paced run of our Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) "Denial101x - Making sense of climate science denial". The course will then stay open until mid-December giving you ample time to work through the 7 weeks of lectures.

    This MOOC is for you if you'd like to learn about the basics of climate science AND how these basics regularly get distorted. You'll also learn about the 5 characteristics of science denial: fake experts, logical fallacies, impossible expectations, cherry picking and conspiracy theories - and how to effectively debunk misconceptions.

    Curious? Find out more here:

    I'd love to "run into" some of you in the MOOC's discussion forums!

    flicc.jpg (62.8 kB)
    • Mar 05, 2019 at 07:08 PM

      Here is an alternative way to show and explain the 5 characterstics - or techniques - of science denial as explained in our MOOC -

      Cartoon created by John Cook, research assistant professor at George Mason University and founder of Skeptical Science. For more of John's cartoon's head over to his instagram page where he publishes some of them as time allows and opportunities present themselves!

      flicc-cartoon.jpg (170.5 kB)
  • Feb 27, 2019 at 08:23 AM

    I never heard about "Climate Silence" despite I know all the hoaxes and the attacks on the topic of climate changes and their deep and brutal impacts on our lives.

    And it's funny this topic raised in these days (I lost it in the past weeks!) when in Italy there is the 15th edition of M'illumino di meno (*) (here Facebook's page event ), an event promoted by a radio show about consuming less energy, consuming better and circular economy (recycling and so on).

    It started really little, trying to obtain a substantial reduction of energy consumption in a specific hour for a day and now it involves embassies, foreign countries, chefs with Michelin stars, museums and so on.

    Everyone can join, organizing something nice like a dinner with just candles and all the stuff in the fridge you are going to throw away or doing something more substantial (many offices will switch to solar panels)

    Why do I speak about this? Because it's the example on how people is not that bad as we think: give her something little to start with, maybe funny, maybe somehow silly or useless (one hour without lights on is nothing!) and things will roll out themselves.

    So, what are you going to do on friday, March the 1st? Are you going to join the initative too?
    I'll be playing Dungeons and Dragons on candle lights with my friends, recycling the stuff in the fridge for dinner.

    Craig Cmehil: do you think SAP can do something? :) I can help to get in contact with the program, if you want :)

    (*) "M'illumino di meno" means "I light myself less" and plays with a famous poem from Ungaretti, "M'illumino d'immenso", meaning "I light myself with the infinity".

    • Feb 27, 2019 at 02:44 PM

      That's an interesting question, I'm honestly not sure who inside of SAP I could direct this too. My first thought it the CSR (corporate social responsibility) team - I'll need to take a look and see what I can find out.

  • Apr 08, 2019 at 05:04 PM

    So, I'm currently on vacation from my actual job and spending most of it participating in this year's General Assembly of the European Geoscience Union in Vienna. Today, I did my part to yet again break the "climate silence" by presenting in a session about climate science education. In case you are interested in learning more about this, please check my blog post Skeptical Science at EGU 2019 - blogging from day to day. It explains the special format of the session - which comes with a 2-minute-madness presentation - and which I'll keep updating during the week as time allows.

  • Jul 09, 2019 at 11:22 AM

    During my lunch break I just read the L.A. Times article „Want to do something about global warming? Talk about it with your family and friends“ about a new study recently published in PNAS. As this is a study about how to end climate silence it‘s as good an excuse as any to „bump“ this thread!

    PDF of the short paper

  • Sep 19, 2019 at 10:57 AM

    Tomorrow, a global week of climate action kicks off with large mobilizations and events in thousands of locations around the world (more than 450 in Germany alone!). So, it‘s good timing - and of course just a big coincidence! - that my vacation starts tomorrow and I‘ll be able to join the event in Stuttgart‘s city center where a large rally will take place from around 1:30 pm.

    I‘ll help with Scientists for Future who‘ll have a booth at „Schlossplatz“ and will share information about how to detect and rebut misinformation. To that end I prepared a hopefully fun quiz and „match-up-activity“ leveraging some of John Cook‘s cartoons depicting logical fallacies. Over the last couple of weeks, John shared some „Fallacy Quizzes“ via social media and if you‘d like to give it a try, here are the links (as they build on each other, it‘s best to start with quiz 1 and do them in sequence:, ...

    Are any of you participating in any of the activities somewhere around the globe?

    • Sep 19, 2019 at 01:07 PM

      Great cartoons! "I've actually been moving upwards since we started sinking." Perfect image for the nonsense.

      • Sep 19, 2019 at 05:47 PM

        Glad you like John's cartoons, Caroleigh! For more of them, you may want to keep an eye on which gives a preview of what's to come later this year (the "Cranky Uncle" mobile game to teach critical thinking) and sometime next spring (the "Cranky Uncle vs. Climate Change" book).

  • Sep 27, 2019 at 08:15 PM

    As a follow-up to John Cook's fallacy quizzes mentioned earlier, I leveraged some of the cartoons used in the quizzes to create a - hopefully fun - match-up activity. John had given four options of which fallacy a given cartoon depicted, like here:

    My version uses 9 cartoons to which 9 fallacies need to be matched:

    (for the fallacy definitions, please check Quiz #8)

    If you'd like to know more about the creation of the quiz and where/how I've been using it thus far, please check my blog post on Skeptical Science.

  • Oct 27, 2019 at 02:33 PM

    During SAP TechEd in Barcelona I got the quite unexpected chance to put the topic of this thread into practice as one of the Unconference Meet-Ups orangised by Jerry Janda . Apart from mentioning it in my write-up for Thursday, I also published a blog post on Skeptical Science about it. Jerry snapped a nice picture of the meet-up as we were getting started:

  • Nov 09, 2019 at 10:19 AM

    If you'd like to know more about climate science and the misinformation surrounding it, please join the SAP Community Call "Taking on fake news about climate change" on November 25! Here is a short blog post about the call.

  • Aug 28, 2020 at 08:44 PM

    Cartoons are - hopefully! - a great way to break climate silence and to talk about climate science. So, it's a good thing that John Cook published a slide-deck with many of his "Cranky Uncle" cartoons highlighting logical fallacies inherent in climate misinformation. You can read about it in John's blog post on his Cranky Uncle website. Here is a collage as a little teaser:

    The slide-deck is also available in German via this blog post:

  • Oct 01, 2020 at 03:38 PM

    For anybody curious to learn about what prompted my sustained interest in human-caused climate change, please check out my recent blog post detailing „My climate story - coming full circle“ published on Skeptical Science. 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.

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