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

Sarah Ott once believed climate change was a hoax, but now she is passionate about the environment

For years, Sarah Ott was convinced that climate change was a hoax, influenced by her conservative community and a popular right-wing radio host. However, her journey from climate skeptic to environmental advocate showcases the power of education and personal growth. In this article, Sarah shares her transformation and her passion for teaching teenage students about the science of climate change. Her story serves as a reminder that change is possible, even in the face of deeply ingrained beliefs.

A Childhood Love for Nature

From a young age, Sarah Ott had a deep connection with nature. Growing up in Pennsylvania, the granddaughter of coal miners, she spent countless hours outdoors and developed a love for the environment. Her family’s strong Catholic background, coupled with their scientific inclinations, instilled in her a curiosity about the world around her.

The Influence of Conservative Media

As Sarah grew older and settled into married life in Georgia, she found solace in conservative radio shows, particularly the controversial host Rush Limbaugh. It was through these shows that she was exposed to misinformation about climate change, reinforcing her skepticism. The turning point came when Limbaugh discussed “Climategate,” a controversy surrounding climate change research. Feeling betrayed, Sarah believed that scientists had lied to her.

A Personal Struggle and Intellectual Awakening

During a period of postpartum depression and anxiety, Sarah found herself craving intellectual stimulation. While listening to NPR, a non-profit broadcaster, she encountered a different perspective on climate change that resonated with her. This marked a turning point in her journey, prompting her to question the narratives she had previously embraced. She realized that her social circle had become limited to her church group, which held anti-intellectual views.

Leaving Behind an Old Community

After the 2016 US presidential elections, Sarah made the difficult decision to distance herself from her church group. She returned to her job as a teacher, seeking new connections and a more diverse social network. This change allowed her to engage in conversations about climate change and find common ground with others who shared her newfound beliefs. Sarah’s transformation was not easy, but it opened doors to a new life.

Becoming an Advocate for Change

Sarah’s journey led her to organizations like Citizens’ Climate Lobby and the National Center for Science Education, where she actively advocates for climate solutions and educates her students about climate change. She believes in leading by example and understanding the values that drive individuals’ beliefs. Sarah acknowledges the importance of empathy and providing a soft landing for those who are going through a similar transformation.


Sarah Ott’s transformation from climate skeptic to environmental advocate is a powerful reminder of the potential for change and growth. Her story highlights the impact of education and exposure to different perspectives. As climate change continues to be a pressing global issue, Sarah’s journey serves as an inspiration for others to question their beliefs, engage in meaningful conversations, and work towards a sustainable future.






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