The global climate crisis is the emergency of our times. Amid all the fear and sadness of 2020, it remains the overwhelming long-term threat to our planet and to everyone’s health and security.
That is why we promise to keep reporting on it, raising the alarm and investigating the crisis and possible solutions, until we begin to see genuine systemic change.
A year ago, the Guardian made a pledge to our readers. We promised to keep speaking out about the climate emergency, despite the formidable and well-funded forces who would much rather the subject remained buried. We adopted new language to emphasise the existential nature of the situation. We pledged to deepen our environmental reporting. Our commercial teams decided to reject all advertising from fossil fuel extractors – a first among major media companies. We committed to reaching carbon neutrality by 2030. And that was just the start.
Thousands of readers from 130 countries joined us as a result, paying to support open, independent, authoritative environmental journalism that pulls no punches, exposes the depth of the crisis, and challenges us to rethink every aspect of our warming world – how it can be better, more sustainable, more just and more hopeful.
That support has enabled us to maintain a relentless focus on the environment, with almost 3,000 articles over the last 12 months. We have published investigations, scientific analysis, reports on species extinction and air quality – and we have kept the voices of those affected by global heating at the heart of our reporting.
In the past year, we’ve reported from the Arctic and Antarctic, as well as other climate frontlines: the Amazon, the Sahara, the wildfires of Australia and the American west. We reported from the Cop25 summit of governments (travelling there by train). We have closely covered the movements trying to bring about change, such as Extinction Rebellion and the school climate strikes. We dug deep into the loss of wildlife, the problems of air pollution and microplastics, and exposed the most polluting companies on the planet.
We want our supporters to know: when you fund us, this is what you are paying for.
But of course this environmental year has been unique for another reason. A succession of related crises, not least the global Covid-19 pandemic, has brought a new perspective. These crises have starkly demonstrated how so many of our global problems – public health, migration, food security, land conflict, equality, gender and race – intersect with our environmental catastrophe.
For example, many researchers now see a correlation between species-jumping viruses such as Covid-19 and humanity’s deep, destructive incursion into the natural world. Links between high air pollution and increased coronavirus infection rates have also become apparent, thanks to persistent Guardian reporting. It’s becoming clearer than ever that people’s mass migration from the global south over the past decade has been principally caused by changing weather. And we are coming to understand, more deeply than ever, how global heating disproportionately affects communities of colour.
Independent, expert journalism can make a difference. It generates awareness of the problems – as well as the solutions. It galvanises protest and resistance, putting pressure on government and industry to make positive changes. And it promotes and encourages best practice, human ingenuity and innovation that we can all learn from. As Christiana Figueres, the UN’s climate chief when the Paris deal was sealed in 2015, told our environment editor, Damian Carrington: “Without the work of the Guardian the delivery of the Paris agreement would have been far harder or perhaps even impossible … At a time when the darkness of fake news and doubt in science is everywhere, the Guardian is a point of light.”
But words alone may not be enough. We feel the need to act, too. So the Guardian is also trying to set an example. Over the past year, we have renounced fossil fuel advertising. We have eliminated more than 95% of our investment exposure to fossil fuels. We have qualified as a B Corp, a certification that will hold us to high social and environmental standards.
By 2030, we will have completely eliminated two-thirds of our emissions. For the remaining third, we will remove carbon from the atmosphere by supporting the highest-quality offsetting schemes. We don’t expect these changes to be easy, and we may make mistakes along the way, but we will be transparent about our progress and share everything we learn.
Wars have been fought over natural resources for most of human history, and our efforts to coexist with the natural world have been written about for decades, if not centuries. But the crisis before us today is something quite different, for two main reasons. First, the stakes are higher, the planet hotter than it has been for tens of thousands of years. The risk we face is nothing less than the downfall of the civilised world, perhaps in the lifetime of today’s schoolchildren. Second, we can see a path forward that avoids the worst outcomes. The worldwide response to Covid-19 has demonstrated that there can be collective global action if the threat is big enough, and that humans are capable of changing our lives and lifestyles quickly, when the moment demands it.
The threat presented by the climate crisis is big enough. Help us to galvanise the action required by supporting Guardian journalism.
It’s not too late.