Climate crisis, Climate and Gender Disinformation – Newsletter #6


Cathleen Berger


Hello and welcome to issue No. 6 of Upgrade Democracy News!

The world is on fire.

Too dramatic? The science and the data beg to differ: June and July have seen the hottest days and global average temperatures on record. Current weather patterns, amplified by the effects of this year’s El Nino suggest that things will only get worse from here. And this is not merely a theoretical endeavour, the number of people dying from extreme heat is rising. Add to that, that many regions, including Europe and yes, Germany are facing water shortages and the picture becomes even bleaker. Painfully, this is fertile ground for disinformation campaigns: The climate crisis has become the new symbolic turf that is exploited to divide and polarise societies.

This tension is visible everywhere I look. In Berlin, where I live, poster campaigns urging people to save water have become a common part of the cityscape. In stark contrast to that, the city’s senator for transportation has (temporarily) halted the expansion of bike lanes and re-opened pedestrian areas and recreational streets for car traffic – decisions that directly counter the need for cities to speed up their green transition and support citizens to deal with extreme heat. Against this backdrop, malign actors are feasting on further fuelling the exasperation felt on both sides of this debate: those terrified by inaction and delay as well as those who simply want to go about their day.

These days it can be hard to take the emotion out of these observations. This is why I am all the more looking forward to talking to a set of experts later today, where we will discuss the dynamics of climate misinformation and gendered disinformation in democratic societies – and what solutions we can put forward to strengthen our resilience. We will share the results on our series of #ImpulseForDemocracy and the “Impulse” section on our website next week.

In the meantime, you’ll find a link to a webinar on climate misinformation below. Curated by the EU Disinfo Lab, the speakers do a great job at highlighting the dynamics and pressures at play, as well as outlining possible courses of action.

We hope you enjoy Upgrade Democracy News and welcome any feedback and ideas for things to include or change. Links to our publications as well as a few recommended reads and listens below or on the blog version of this newsletter.

Warmly, Cathleen

Blog post

My colleagues Charlotte and Felix closely followed the calls for improving the working conditions of content moderators. In support of these efforts and to increase awareness of the current working conditions, they looked an interactive simulation game that helps people empathise with content moderators. More on Content Moderation Mayhem [EN] here.

Impulse for Democracy

Paper number 4 will look at climate misinformation and gendered disinformation. And thanks to everyone who participated in our survey over the last couple weeks, we now know that our topic in August will be the EU elections in 2024. With 44% of the vote, the results were rather clear and we look forward to engaging with everyone on this important topic [blog in German]:Community Voting zu unserer Impulsserie abgeschlossen – Upgrade Democracy


Our new format “Perspectives” is finally live. In this section, you will find snippets and insights from our recent research trip to Kenya as well as a first set of analyses and lessons learned. Learn more here.

Recommended read and/or watch

Cathleen Berger

Cathleen Berger


Cathleen Berger’s professional experience spans across sectors: academia, government, non-profit, corporate, and start-up. Her work and research focus on the intersection of digital technologies, sustainability, and social impact. She currently works with the Bertelsmann Stiftung as Co-Lead for Upgrade Democracy as well as the Reinhard Mohn Prize 2024 and Senior Expert on future technologies and sustainability. In addition, she occasionally advises and works with social purpose companies and organisations on their climate and social impact strategies.

Previously, she directed the B Corporation certification process of a pre-seed climate tech start-up, launched and headed up Mozilla’s environmental sustainability programme, worked within the International Cyber Policy Coordination Staff at the German Foreign Office, as a consultant with Global Partners Digital, a research assistant at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), and a visiting lecturer at the Friedrich Schiller University Jena.

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