"On any reasonable analysis, this is the most important story of our lifetime. [...] What we do in the next ten years could determine the future of the human race."
Alan Rusbridger is about to step down as the editor-in-chief of The Guardian. Before he does, he wants to do one last big project. And that project is going to focus on climate change. The Guardian has been recognized and respected the world over for its environmental coverage, not to mention its coverage of climate denial funding, but Rusbridger is convinced that the paper — and the profession of journalism — has failed to give climate change the attention or framing it deserves:
The problem with this story is… it’s so big, and it doesn’t change much from day to day. Journalism is brilliant at capturing momentum, or changes, or things that are unusual. If it’s basically the same every day, every week, every year, I think journalists lose heart.
The project is wide-ranging and groundbreaking. Starting with the acceptance that the basic science is settled — anthropogenic climate change is very real and very dangerous — the paper will be looking at the political and economic dimensions of the threat, as well as what's being done to counter that threat. The paper will look at who is funding climate disruption (and climate denial). It will look at which governments are getting serious about tackling climate emissions and which ones are not. And it will also be revealing more about how The Guardian is tackling its own carbon footprint.
Interestingly, the paper will also be podcasting the series as it unfolds, taking us behind the scenes of how the coverage gets shaped. Here's the audio clip from episode one of The Biggest Story in the World, in which Rusbridger and Guardian contributors share the genesis of this initiative:
The Guardian's dramatic ramping up of its coverage is part of a broader shift in how the existential threat of climate change is being discussed on the airwaves, in boardrooms and in the halls of government.
A changing corporate climate
It wasn't that long ago that corporate climate action was largely seen as an act of philanthropy, something that's handled by a company's corporate social responsibility team. Now we're seeing CEOs like Apple's Tim Cook speaking directly and bluntly about the threat that climate change poses while announcing dramatic investments in clean energy too. Crucially, we're also seeing businesses distance themselves from climate denial, parting ways with lobbying groups that hold back renewables.
High-tech meets low-tech in India. (Photo: Land Rover Our Planet/flickr)
Political action heats up
Similarly, President Barack Obama has made no secret of his intention to make climate action a part of his legacy, and he's bringing China along for the ride. India, too, is betting big on solar and planting a whole bunch of trees in an effort to clean its air. There are even signs that the partisan divide on climate may be eroding, with Mitt Romney recently declaring that climate change is real and pushing for the U.S. to tackle it. On a local level, things are looking even more encouraging — with many world-class cities aiming for 100 percent renewable energy. Even regional cities like Australia's Byron Bay are getting ambitious, aiming to be a zero-emissions community in the next 10 years. (This was, of course, reported over at The Guardian.)
And finally, civil society is making its voice heard too. From the biggest climate march in history to the unprecedented speed at which fossil fuel divestment is spreading, the carbon-intensive status quo is being undermined — not just by committed environmental activists, but by trusted financial experts who fear a carbon bubble when "unburnable" fossil fuels must be left permanently in the ground.
The conversation has undoubtedly shifted. Now it's time to get to work.
Sami Grover writes for MNN and TreeHugger about energy and business and how the two intersect.