Earlier this year the Guardian announced that it was going to be putting climate change ‘front and center‘ in its news coverage. Editor Alan Rusbridger explained that the media, his own paper included, has struggled to do justice to climate change. “We prefer to deal with what has happened, not what lies ahead” he wrote. “We favour what is exceptional and in full view over what is ordinary and hidden.”
I can understand Rusbridger’s frustration. As this week’s column inches about Jeremy Clarkson attest, what matters and what constitutes news don’t necessarily overlap.
As a slow motion, long term problem, climate change doesn’t make headlines, despite being one of the most serious issues journalists will cover in their careers. So the paper has been trying to remedy that problem, for its own readers at least, and taken on a much more campaigning edge in its coverage this spring.
Yesterday, that led to the launch of an actual campaign, Keep It In the Ground. It highlights the fact that we know how much carbon we can burn to stay within two degrees of warming – the ‘carbon budget’. The carbon content of known fossil fuel reserves is five times bigger than this carbon budget. If we exploit all known reserves, we will fundamentally change the atmosphere, to the point that it may prove incompatible with the civilization we have created for ourselves. To avoid that, we have to leave coal and oil reserves in the ground.
The Guardian has thrown its weight behind the divestment movement, started by Bill McKibben and 350.org. This week they are gathering names for a petition to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust, urging them to divest. You can sign it here.