‘climate-fit’ (‘klimafit’) is a region-specific continuing education course on municipal climate protection and climate adaptation, designed to offer scientifically sound insights into the causes and impacts of climate change. Participants acquire a fundamental grasp of the climate system and on-going changes at the global, regional and local level. In addition, the course offers them the opportunity to exchange notes and network with one another, but also with local climate protection initiatives. Networking participants and encouraging them to become actively involved in climate protection is an essential aspect of the course. To help achieve this goal, it contains a number of interactive elements, e.g. group work.
The course concept was based on project phase 1, but also included several innovations to help participants actively pursue climate protection and engage in networking. In addition, the concept was adapted for the coastal regions in Northern Germany, since 2019 was the first year in which ‘climate-fit’ (‘klimafit’) was offered at North German community colleges. It addressed region-specific topics for Northern and Southern Germany, and provided e.g. information on extreme weather events. For many of the participating cities, flood protection measures are becoming increasingly important, while in others, measures concerning drought and extreme dryness are more relevant.
The number of evening sessions was expanded from five to six, giving participants the chance to intensively work on the subject matter for another evening. A further, unique new aspect: evenings three and six were offered digitally, making them available from anywhere. On these evenings, the participants were introduced e.g. to an interactive course format characterised by live chats with climate researchers. In addition, region-specific ‘climate-fit’ (‘klimafit’) films, referred to as ‘Expert Talks’ and produced with the aid of scientific experts from the REKLIM initiative from Northern and Southwest Germany, were integrated into the course concept. One of the highlights of the ‘climate-fit’ (‘klimafit’) course was a live feed to the German research station Neumayer III in the Antarctic on the sixth evening session, which gave participants the chance to speak with those overwintering there.
In project phase 2 the VHS-Cloud, an online tool for community colleges, was a central component of the course. The VHS-Cloud provides access to a digital curriculum specifically tailored to community colleges, allowing them to offer courses on a decentralised, site-independent basis. Participants can complete their ‘climate-fit’ (‘klimafit’) active homework assignments in the VHS-Cloud and share the outcomes directly with the group. Further, they can use the VHS-Cloud to access course materials and additional information on the course content, or use its forum function to exchange notes and support one another.
The community college course ‘climate-fit’ (‘klimafit’) was divided into six evening sessions and offered from February to April 2019. Between sessions, ‘climate-fit’ (‘klimafit’) active homework assignments gave participants the opportunity to expand their own climate-friendly behaviour, step by step.
All essential information on ‘climate-fit’ (‘klimafit’) can also be found in the flyer “Are you climate-fit?”.
The evening sessions were thematically structured as follows:
• Evening Session 1: Fundamentals of climate change and getting to know one another
• Evening Session 2: Causes of climate change
• Evening Session 3: Digital networking – becoming personally active – discussions with the experts
• Evening Session 4: Regional effects of climate change
• Evening Session 5: Now we’re ‘climate-fit’ (‘klimafit’)
• Evening Session 6: Digital networking – making our home region ‘climate-fit’ (‘klimafit’)
Evening Session 1: Fundamentals of climate change and getting to know one another
In the first evening session, the instructors and participants got to know each other, and jointly discussed the fundamentals of climate change. After starting with the various components of the climate system, emphasis was then placed on the effects of climate change at the regional level. In their presentations (‘climate-fit’ (‘klimafit’) films / Expert Talks), the experts Dr Insa Meinke from the North German Coastal and Climate Office at the Helmholtz Centre for Materials and Coastal Research in Geesthacht and Dr Hans Schipper from the South German Climate Office at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology explained how the signs of climate change can already be seen in Northern and Southern Germany. Subsequently, the municipal climate protection officers explained their duties with regard to local climate protection, and answered any questions the participants had.
Evening Session 2: Causes of climate change
The second evening session focused on the causes of climate change. One catalyst for rising temperatures worldwide are greenhouse-gas emissions, which are produced by human activities and ultimately reach the atmosphere. Participants learned about the main sources of emissions, the various sectors, and the per-capita statistics. The effects of greenhouse gases can already be seen in many regions of the Earth, especially in the Arctic. This topic was presented by Dr Renate Treffeisen from the Climate Office at the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (‘climate-fit’ (‘klimafit’) film / Expert Talk). In the final section of the second evening session, the participants took on a more active role, working together in small groups to devise ways of reducing their personal emissions.
Evening Session 3: Digital networking – becoming personally active – discussions with the experts
Evening three was the first of two digital sessions: a new element in project phase 2, which offered participants the chance for direct contact with climate experts. In a ‘dialogue with the researchers’, they could raise any questions they had on the course topics and discuss them with specialists from the REKLIM research initiative on a scientifically sound basis. The digital evening sessions were jointly and simultaneously offered by all ‘climate-fit’ (‘klimafit’) sites in Northern and Southern Germany, giving participants the opportunity to get to know their counterparts from across the country.
Evening Session 4: Regional effects of climate change
The fourth evening session put the spotlight on the regional impacts of climate change. In a ‘climate-fit’ (‘klimafit’) film, Prof Michael Kunz from Karlsruhe Institute of Technology reported on extreme weather events in Northern and Southern Germany. Moreover, in this session the participants had the chance to exchange notes with local climate protection initiatives, and to learn first-hand how and where they could personally actively pursue climate protection. The participants were then given a homework assignment: to interview their friends, family and/or co-workers and test how much they knew about climate change; the outcomes were to be discussed in the following session.
Evening Session 5: Now we’re ‘climate-fit’ (‘klimafit’)
In terms of content, the last ‘real’ evening session showed the participants why they can trust in scientific facts. The topic was discussed in more detail in the context of a ‘climate-fit’ (‘klimafit’) film / Expert Talk by Dr Klaus Grosfeld, Managing Director of the REKLIM Helmholtz Climate Initiative Regional Climate Change at the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research. In a second ‘climate-fit’ (‘klimafit’) film / Expert Talk, climate protection manager Armin Bobsien from the city of Emmendingen near Freiburg explained why climate protection is a task for the entire community. In addition, the participants addressed the topic of climate adaptation. At the end of the session, each received a certificate of completion, certifying their status as ‘climate-fit’ (‘klimafit’).
Evening Session 6: Digital networking – making our home region ‘climate-fit’ (‘klimafit’)
Evening six was the second digital session. On this evening, researchers working in the Antarctic joined the course via live feed, giving participants the once-in-a-lifetime chance to speak with those overwintering there. Beforehand, they were informed about the research station in the Antarctic (Neumayer Station III) and what it’s like to live and work there. In the final ‘dialogue with the researchers’, participants had the chance to ask any questions they had on the previous sessions or ‘climate-fit’ (‘klimafit’) films / Expert Talks.