The year 2023 will go down in history as a pivotal year in the increasing crises of extinction, climate change, and nature – primarily due to the fact that it is expected to be the warmest year on record. The Guardian’s team of international environment journalists have been diligently reporting on major events around the globe, 24/7. In 2023 alone, we have released over 6,000 articles on environmental issues, which have been read over 500 million times.
In this section, we document the ways in which important pieces of journalism have made a tangible impact in the real world. This includes influencing opinions and policies, and bringing attention to the most pressing issues of our time. Here are some notable examples:
Exploring the problematic nature of carbon offsetting systems
Our series of exclusive reports on rainforest carbon offsets had a significant impact. The joint investigation by the Guardian, Die Zeit and Source Material was the result of three years of extensive research into the rainforest carbon offsets approved by Verra, the top certifier in the world. Our reporter familiarized himself with the intricate methodologies underlying the field and, with the assistance of academics, was able to develop new analysis. This analysis revealed that the carbon credits utilized by major corporations for their climate and biodiversity commitments were severely flawed. During our field work, we also uncovered allegations of human rights violations at a particular scheme in Peru. The findings of our investigation, which have been challenged by Verra, caused a stir in the industry and have resulted in changes in personnel and regulations over the past few months since publication.
Exposing the methane bombs and leaks that could potentially cause climate tipping points.
In 2022, the Guardian uncovered a set of “carbon bombs” that are poised to trigger catastrophic climate change – 195 massive oil and gas projects that, if carried out, would push the Earth beyond the 1.5 degree Celsius target set by the Paris agreement. In 2023, we followed up with a series of exclusive reports on the “methane bombs” and high-emission leaks that pose a serious risk of tipping the climate into irreversible damage. Our team spent months tracking down the locations responsible for releasing this potent greenhouse gas into the atmosphere. We then turned our attention to Turkmenistan, where methane leaks from just two fossil fuel fields caused more global warming in 2022 than the entire carbon emissions of the UK. Our reporting spurred action and put pressure on the country to address the issue. As a result, it has now begun working with the US and other nations to find a solution. The Guardian’s environment editor, Damian Carrington, received a Covering Climate Now journalist of the year award for his science-based reporting, which reveals that it is not a lack of green technology, but rather politics and corporate power, that hinder progress on climate change.
Monitoring the decrease in animal populations
Our coverage of the environmental crisis is drawing much-needed attention to the concerning state of our planet’s health. A key aspect of our reporting is to identify and highlight the most significant scientific studies that have been peer-reviewed. This year, we focused on the key findings from WWF’s Living Planet Report, which is their most comprehensive research to date on global biodiversity trends. The report revealed that the world’s wildlife populations have declined by an average of 69% in less than 50 years due to human activities such as deforestation, overconsumption, and industrial pollution. This decline in species abundance has far-reaching consequences, impacting our food supply, water resources, and leisure activities. The Guardian will continue to provide updates on this ongoing issue. In addition to covering the overall decline of species globally, we have also delved into the complex threats facing individual species. Our podcast, “Killing the Skydancer,” investigated the illegal killing of birds of prey and shed light on the challenges in solving these crimes, as well as what they reveal about humanity’s relationship with nature.
Bringing attention to the severity of hazardous air pollution in Europe.
The Guardian’s teams dedicated to environment and data collaborated for several months to analyze numerous satellite images and data from ground monitoring stations, in order to shed light on the concerning issue of air pollution. The investigation revealed that a staggering 98% of Europeans are residing in areas with dangerously high levels of fine particulate pollution, surpassing the World Health Organization’s recommended limits by more than double. As a consequence, the continent is facing a severe public health crisis. Our team created an interactive map that enables readers to search for the air quality in their region and compare it to other areas and countries. The director of the WHO’s department overseeing environment, climate change, and health responded to the investigation by stating that European politicians hold a clear and absolute moral obligation to urgently address air pollution.
Each trend starts with a unique instance: highlighting other options.
As journalists, it can be challenging to maintain a positive outlook in the face of the climate and nature crisis. However, it is our responsibility to seek out individuals, communities, and governments who are innovating and striving to find more effective and sustainable solutions. Our coverage includes stories of nature’s recovery, conservation efforts, and efforts to combat the climate crisis. These stories can offer hope and motivation, such as the 97-year-old botanist preserving rare wildflowers and the scientists gathering data in dangerous conditions to protect one of Europe’s few remaining pristine rivers. In line with our dedication to highlighting solutions, we have launched a new series called “The Alternatives,” which will feature different ideas being implemented around the world each week. Our initial articles cover a car-free housing development in the US, innovative Dutch toilets that heat homes, and Australia’s success in installing solar panels on one-third of its homes.
Rewording: Reporting on crucial international discussions about biodiversity.
International cooperation is essential for preserving a sustainable planet, including protecting biodiversity and mitigating climate change. The Guardian has a dedicated focus on reporting on the political aspect of international agreements and negotiations related to the nature crisis. Our team of reporters provided extensive coverage of the United Nations’ 2022 Cop15 biodiversity negotiations in Montreal, resulting in a landmark deal between 200 countries to stop the destruction of Earth’s ecosystems. This agreement includes targets such as protecting 30% of the planet for nature by 2030, reforming $500 billion of damaging subsidies, and taking urgent action to prevent extinction. Our biodiversity correspondents will also be covering the next round of negotiations at Cop16 in 2024, and will continue to report on the progress made by countries towards meeting their commitments.
The Bruno and Dom project must continue their work.
Our colleague Dom Phillips, based in Brazil, had gone missing and the news spread through an email asking if anyone had been in contact with him recently. After weeks of waiting anxiously, it was confirmed that he and his comrade Bruno Pereira had tragically passed away in the Amazon rainforest, a place they were both passionate about. Dom had dedicated his work to writing about the rainforest. Despite the sadness, we were determined to honor their memory and their important work, as well as shed light on the issues within the forest. A team from our environment and international desks collaborated with Forbidden Stories and other organizations to create the Bruno and Dom project. A year later, we published several investigations on the large corporations that are exploiting the Amazon, the construction of new roads through its heart, and the connection between livestock farming and deforestation. We also presented potential solutions to these issues.
Bringing attention to the shocking condition of rivers in England.
In 2019, one of our journalists, Sandra Laville, became concerned about the deteriorating health of rivers in the UK and began investigating the cause. Through her research, she uncovered a major story: the water industry’s practice of dumping large amounts of sewage into the country’s waterways. Since then, our news organization has diligently followed this scandal, with Laville working alongside our data team to uncover the fact that a majority of the industry is owned by foreign investors. They also examined where our water bill payments actually go and explored the possibility of nationalization. Additionally, they tracked down global investors to hold them accountable for the pollution in our waterways. In August, we reported on a groundbreaking class action lawsuit on behalf of 20 million households in England and Wales, which could result in significant compensation for the public due to sewage discharges. The right to clean water is a basic human right, and as the climate and nature crisis worsens, the pressure to address this issue will only increase. We are committed to providing ongoing coverage of this important story.
Conducting an inquiry into the group of individuals responsible for a significant amount of pollution.
The Guardian conducted a special investigation into the issue of carbon inequality, exploring why it is widening within countries and its connections to other systemic injustices. The investigation, carried out by a team of expert environment and climate justice reporters over the course of six months, had exclusive access to research conducted by Oxfam, the Stockholm Environment Institute, and other specialists. The investigation revealed that the top 1% of the population produces as much carbon pollution in one year as the bottom 5 billion people, highlighting the significant impact of the middle classes on the climate crisis. It also uncovered how the private jets of 200 celebrities, CEOs, oligarchs, and billionaires have collectively spent 11 years in the air since the beginning of 2022. This series garnered widespread attention and sparked discussions on how to address the staggering disparities in individuals’ impact on our planet just weeks before Cop28, which has a strong focus on climate justice.
Exploring the Impact of Oil and Gas Extraction on Vital Habitats: The Devastating Effects on Wildlife
The Guardian has taken the lead in reporting on the impact of extractive industries, specifically mining, logging, and oil and gas exploration, on biodiversity hotspots. These activities pose a threat to important carbon storage areas and habitats of endangered wildlife. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, we investigated the government’s decision to auction off permits for oil and gas exploration in areas where critically endangered gorillas live, as well as in the world’s largest tropical peatlands. From Ecuador, we covered the story of indigenous forest protectors who are fighting against illegal mining in the Amazon. In Venezuela, we explored the effects of the climate crisis and the race for minerals on unique species living on the country’s sacred flat-top mountains.
What you said
Numerous individuals from various parts of the globe have expressed their messages in favor of the Guardian’s coverage on climate and nature. Here are some of the comments:
I believe the paper has made every effort to capture and hold the attention of its readers. The challenge is convincing those in a position to make a difference to take action. Your decision to divest from fossil fuels sets a great example and shows your commitment. If only others would follow your commendable lead.
“You are the most informative and trustworthy of all the media outlets, particularly on issues others don’t even acknowledge such as the environment and climate change. You have integrity and independence because you don’t financially answer to any organisations who seek their own agenda through you.”
Caroline, United Kingdom
“I appreciate the way you cover the urgent issue of climate change. As a parent and grandparent, I am deeply concerned and grateful for your efforts.”
In these uncertain times, having an unbiased source of news is crucial. That’s why I stand behind the Guardian for two specific reasons: 1) their comprehensive coverage of global environmental issues, which is especially relevant to my work as a scientist focused on water quality, environmental remediation, and climate change; and 2) their impartial reporting on international events. Thank you for your attention!
“The Guardian’s refusal to accept ad money from the fossil fuel industry is the main reason why they are unparalleled in their coverage of environmental issues.”
I pondered about how to combat the climate crisis and concluded that the Guardian’s coverage is crucial for keeping us updated, involved, and united in our efforts.