An Open Letter to the Global Media by Greta Thunberg and Vanessa Nakate

Dear international media editors

Wildfires and melting glaciers are all signs of a destabilizing planet. All these are signs of an unstable planet that are occurring around us constantly.

These are what you will report on. Sometimes. Sometimes. CrisisBut it is more than that. Reporting on climate change must include reporting on fundamental questions of justice, time and holistic thinking.

What does this mean? Let’s look at these issues one by one.

The notion of time. If you don’t include the concept of time in your stories, the climate crisis will be viewed as a political matter. We can simply buy, invest, build, and/or fix our way out. Leave out the aspect of time and we can continue pretty much like today and ”solve the problems” later on. 2030, 2050, or 2060. The best available science shows that with our current rate of emissions, our remaining carbon budget for staying below 1.5°C will run out before the end of this decade.

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A second, holistic thinking. We must include all emissions when we are calculating our remaining carbon budget. You are currently allowing high-income nations and large polluters to get away with it, by allowing them hide behind incomplete statistics and loopholes that they created over the past 30 years.

The third, and perhaps most important, is justice. The climate crisis isn’t just about extreme weather. It’s about people. People. The climate crisis is affecting the poorest people. And while the Global South is on the frontlines of the climate crisis, it’s almost never on the front pages of the world’s newspapers. While the media in Western countries tend to focus on flooding in Europe or California wildfires, disasters related to climate change are not covered as much in Western media.

To include the element of justice, you cannot ignore the Global North’s moral responsibility to move much faster in reducing their emissions. By the end of this year, the world will have collectively burned through 89% of the carbon budget that gives us a 66% chance of staying below 1.5°C.

That’s why historic emissions not only count, but are in fact at the very heart of the debate over climate justice. Yet, the media and those in power continue to ignore historical emissions.

For the Paris Agreement to be effective, it is necessary for the world to see drastic annual emission cuts that are unprecedented in history. And as we don’t have the technological solutions that alone will do anything close to that in the foreseeable future, it means we have to make fundamental changes in our society. This is the uncomfortable result of our leaders’ failure to address this crisis.

It is your responsibility to correct this failing. We are social animals and if our leaders, and our media, don’t act as if we were in a crisis then of course we won’t understand that we are. A functioning democracy has a free press that informs citizens about the major challenges facing society. Media must also hold people at the top accountable for what they do or don’t do.

Yours is our only hope. Nobody else has as much potential and time to reach as many people. Without you, we cannot accomplish this. Climate crisis will only get worse. It is possible to avoid all the terrible consequences and we can turn it around. If we keep going as it is today, this will not change. The resources and potential to transform the story in a matter of hours are yours.

You can choose whether you accept that challenge or not. History will decide what you do.

Greta & Vanessa


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