Last month, the science journal Nature joined more than 300 media outlets in a unique collaboration to highlight the need for urgent action to combat climate change. This is one strand of the editorial, publishing and business activities that Springer Nature—publisher of Nature—has been developing to amplify the need for climate action and reduce its own environmental impact.
The reason behind Nature’s decision to take part in Covering Climate Now is best explained in this edited extract from a recent editorial in the journal: "There isn’t much that focuses the mind like a deadline. Just ask any journalist, or indeed anyone working for a government. The story of politicians and climate change is partly one of decision-makers putting off hard choices. But that can’t go on for much longer. As zero hour approaches, there can be no more kicking of climate cans. The time to act is now."
That’s why Nature joined Covering Climate Now, a collaboration between the world’s media organisations. For one week, starting on 15th September, Nature and more than 250 other outlets—with a combined audience of more than one billion—committed to a week of intensive climate coverage leading up to the United Nations Climate Summit in New York on 23rd September.
Nature has reported the science and policy of climate change for decades. Our reporters covered the first meeting of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1988, and our journalism, expert commentary and research continues to reveal the consequences of a warming planet and explore options for how humanity could adapt.
Scientists on the meteorological front-line see temperature records continually broken, and this is leading to despair: from watching the natural world deteriorate before their eyes, and from continued inaction by heads of government despite compelling evidence of the importance of intervention. World leaders—to a large extent constrained by a desire to protect fossil-fuel industries—continue to play for time. But the window for action is shrinking. Something different, and urgent, must be done.
Covering Climate Now is unusual, ambitious, timely and welcome, not least because it is rare to see often highly competitive media groups collaborating for a shared purpose. (Nature is publishing more than 25 items of news, opinion and multimedia content through the week.)
One of our articles reveals how countries are progressing towards their obligations under the 2015 Paris Agreement on harmful emissions. Sadly, greenhouse-gas emissions continue to climb, even as nations pledge to make substantial reductions.
Last month, teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg sailed into New York harbour after a two-week transatlantic crossing to attend the UN climate summit. One sail featured the phrase "Unite Behind the Science". Along with our colleagues in Covering Climate Now, we are united with all those who stand behind the consensus view of researchers. But there can be no more delay. The time to act is now.
Covering climate change—and encouraging accurate reporting of it in the wider media—is not the only way in which publishers such as Springer Nature can be involved in addressing major global issues. We can ensure specific research is shared and reaches key policymakers and practitioners, as well as discussing and shaping the wider impacts of research on society.
Believe in better
Research can drive action. In 1985, Nature published a seminal paper reporting the discovery of a hole in the ozone layer. That research was critical in leading to the 1989 Montreal Protocol, an international agreement to stop the production of compounds that deplete ozone. This case study shows what the world can do when scientific evidence points to an impending environmental disaster.
We’ve made much slower progress when it comes to climate change, despite the overwhelming weight of evidence highlighting the grave risks. Nature therefore continues to publish research and analysis on climate change that should form the foundation for policy and governmental action.
Springer Nature also recently launched a Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) programme, which aims to connect the researchers who are tackling the world’s toughest challenges—including climate change, global health and access to education—with those in policy and business who rely on such insights to find solutions.
Meanwhile, individuals and organisations worldwide, including many publishers represented at the Frankfurt Book Fair, are wrestling with how to cut their carbon emissions and other environmental impacts of their buildings, business travel—and the paper on which journals and books are printed. We all have a responsibility, and an important part to play.