How NPR Converted a Southern Christian to the Church of the Climate Crisis • Watts Up With That?

Essay by Eric Worrall

What kind of religion would climate change be, without some good old fashioned conversion stories?

‘I thought climate change was a hoax. Now I’ve changed my mind’

Sarah Ott spent years believing climate change was a hoax, influenced by friends at church in the US south and a popular right-wing radio host. Here she shares her journey from being a climate sceptic to becoming an advocate for clean energy, with a passion for teaching teenage school students the science of climate change. She features on this year’s BBC 100 Women list.

I spent years doubting the science of climate change and spending time with people who didn’t believe in the science either.

When I realised I was wrong, I felt really embarrassed.

We have a Polish Catholic background and we attended church regularly, but at the same time we were very connected to science because my mum was a nurse and my dad sold microscopes and other scientific equipment.

My conviction that climate change was a hoax solidified when I heard Limbaugh talk about Climategate. It was a controversy involving research from the University of East Anglia. Only much later did I learn that the material was twisted and taken out of context.

An independent enquiry cleared the UEA scientists of wrongdoing and concluded that “their rigour and honesty are not in doubt”.

That’s when the big turning point came.

I tuned into NPR, a US non-profit broadcaster. I don’t remember which show it was, or the specific news story, but I remember how they described the issue in a completely different way from what I had heard on my usual stations. And it sounded so reasonable.

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What I find most striking about Sarah’s conversion story is the lack of detail.

Sarah claims she realised how wrong she was about climate change when she started tuning in to NPR.

Would that be the same NPR / PBS which somehow blurred the signature of physics legend Edward Teller, during their rather feeble expose of the climate skeptic Oregon Petition? PBS claims Teller’s signature was blurred to emphasise other content, not to hide the fact a climate skeptic petition signatory was one of the USA’s greatest physicists.

Sarah Ott claims she doesn’t remember which NPR story triggered a fundamental re-appraisal of her life views.

I find this claim to not remember the details of such a life changing event a little puzzling. Why wouldn’t Sarah make an effort to share that special life changing story which can reach climate skeptics and Conservatives?

I don’t know about you, but the handful of life events which caused fundamental pivots in my values and life choices, I remember them like they were yesterday. Like the time I got so mad I finally decided to defend myself against the schoolyard bully. Such pivotal moments in one’s life tend to stand out.

Sarah accepts at face value that an “independent inquiry” concluded the Climategate scientists’ “rigour and honesty are not in doubt” – but doesn’t mention any specific emails she found troubling. Did she not bother to look at Climategate for herself?

The British BBC, which published this religious and political conversion story, would love for you heathen climate deniers to blindly follow Sarah’s example, to switch off conservative commentators and tune in to NPR, so you can have your scientific, political and religious views corrected. But they must think we are all really dumb, if this pathetic conversion story is their idea of persuasive marketing.

Perhaps the BBC is so used to abusing the trust of their own loyal fans, they have gotten complacent, and think everyone is easy game.


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