See how global warming has changed the world since your childhood by ABC News Digital Storytelling team
‘See how global warming has changed the world since your childhood’ sets out to shift people's understanding of climate change from an abstract future problem to something that is deeply personal and is already impacting their lives.
The story builds on the work of climate scientist Ed Hawkins, who with his 'warming stripes' data visualisation has helped powerfully and simply convey the increase in global temperatures.
By asking the audience to select the year they were born, we were able to take this visualisation and personalise it — and then use it to explain what the change in temperature means in the context of the reader’s life. By comparing the reader’s life to a six-year-old we were able to show how unprecedented the conditions we’re facing are, and place them in a context that showed how the increase in temperature directly affects their lives.
The second part of the piece allowed us to use the same visualisation to cast forward, through the medium of a child born today, and clearly show the possible situations we face depending on whether we reduce emissions.
The major challenge of this piece was accurately conveying the data in a way that is still approachable for a non-scientific audience. When reporting on an issue as contentious as climate change it is vital that the scientific interpretation be perfect.
To achieve this we collaborated with the Monash University Climate Change Communications, commissioning a custom calculation of modelling of future projections. After the piece was published it was reviewed by four scientists for Climate Feedback, who rated its overall scientific credibility 'very high'.
The story was incredibly successful when published, and quickly reached a large local and international audience.
The story resonated with readers on a deeply personal level, and is an excellent example of how personal an emotive data visualisation can be.
“I wish that I could convince every politician in the world to take five minutes for this interactive. It shows how climate change has impacted the world since your childhood, and peeks into the future.” The Planetary Security Initiative (Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
“This is the most important thing to read as we enter the 2020s. Shocking... plus if we don’t address climate change now, by 2070, Sydney will routinely reach temperatures in the 50s.” Dr Kate Devitt
“This is the some of the most powerful, informative, effective journalism about climate change and what can still be done that I’ve ever seen. As the fires rage and Canberra doubles down on batshit crazy I’m showing this to every single person I know… This really was like a bright shining beacon in the smoke haze that is our absolutely soul draining news feed.” Sophie Black
Published against the backdrop of the growing bushfire crisis in Australia, it provided a compelling explanation of the very effects that are devastating the country before our eyes.