Our world, and this country, are in the middle of an ecological crisis. The world is warming at levels that humans have never lived through, while the sixth mass extinction of species is underway. The rainfall patterns that we rely on are changing. Major metros are running dry while entire communities are already buying water because their taps don’t work.
And it will only get worse.
As is always the case in South Africa, those with the least are being hit hardest. Not that anyone escapes the impact of the crisis we’re living through.
The scale of this collapse is a challenge to journalism. To better report on this, the Mail & Guardian has joined up with 250 other newsrooms, across the world, to report on the climate crisis.
Put together, these outlets reach over one billion people.
In South Africa, we try to hold power to account and expose the politicians and people that are looting this state. This is crucial work.
Decisions in this country have all-too-often been made for personal gain.
That’s part of the reason this country has done so little about the climate crisis. We continue to emit half of the carbon on the entire African continent — that’s for 5% of the continent’s population — because it made more sense to loot Eskom than it did to shift to renewable energy. And it made more sense for kleptocrats to forget communities than it did to invest in making them more resilient to the changing climate.
These decisions are why, per person, our carbon footprint is higher than that of a European. And, because this is the most unequal country in the world, the carbon footprint of those with wealth is on par with that of people in the United States.
Reporting cannot fix this alone. But we have to start a conversation about the climate crisis, and our inaction.
Research by Afrobarometer earlier this month found that 59% of people in this country had never heard of climate change. Ours is just one of five countries on the continent where less than 50% of the population have heard of climate change.
When voters don’t care about issues, politicians don’t care about them.
The Mail & Guardian has always reported on the state of our environment, and climate change. Our newsroom believes that little else matters if we don’t take the climate crisis seriously. Our own government says that the changing climate will undo much of the progress made on the Millennium Development Goals.
To help reverse this silence, and to give you more news about the climate crisis around the world, we’ve joined Covering Climate Now, a collaboration between some 250 newsrooms, spread across the globe. For now, these newsrooms will share stories in the lead-up to the September 23 meeting at the United Nations. There, world governments are being asked to submit much more ambitious plans for tackling the climate crisis.
Our government has actively undermined progress in these kinds of international climate meetings. Climate Action Tracker, a group that collates what every country is doing, ranks our plans as “highly insufficient”.
If every country in the world acted like South Africa, they say, the world would warm by up to 4 °C this century. That’s more than double the warming that scientists say is relatively safe — if global average temperatures increase by above 2 °C then our computers models start to lose track of all the changes and things that start to go wrong.
Our lack of action as a country is because the government is rarely held to account for its inaction. Journalism can do just this. We can investigate and report on what corporations, government and individuals are doing. We can hold power to account and give you the information you need to make decisions on how this country should act.
On Friday, climate strikes are being planned at some 2 500 locations in 120 countries. Here, the largest strike will happen outside the headquarters of petrochemical giant Sasol, which is responsible for 11% of this country’s carbon emissions.
Change is happening.
We will continue to investigate and report on the ‘why’ and the ‘so what’ of this change. Our very survival depends on doing better.