“Climate hell” or “We can do it”

Entry type: Single project

Country/area: Germany

Publishing organisation: Süddeutsche Zeitung

Organisation size: Big

Publication date: 2022-11-18

Language: German

Authors: Sabrina Ebitsch, Julia Kraus, Sören Müller-Hansen, Dominik Wierl


Süddeutsche Zeitung’s Data Team is a standalone unit of the newsroom established in 2018, with a focus on data-driven reporting across all topics. The team works closely with specialist editors, graphic designers, and developers to achieve the best result for readers. The team’s goal is to tell stories, explain complex issues, and expose injustice and corruption. They are committed to constantly learning, experimenting with new tools, sources, and storytelling formats. They strive to be transparent with their methodology, source code and raw data, and to provide the best possible experience for Süddeutsche Zeitung readers.

Project description:

The article discusses the different attitudes and perspectives on climate change and climate policy. It explores the pros and cons of both optimistic and negative views on the topic, and how these perspectives can affect actions and decisions related to climate change. The article also looks at the potential impacts of these differing views on society and the environment. The unique approach of this article is that the same data and charts are used to demonstrate how an optimistic and a pessimistic view on the same facts can change the way how we think of international climate policies.

Impact reached:

The project from sueddeutsche.de on international climate policies has made a significant impact on the audience and community by providing a unique approach in data journalism. The article helped raise awareness and understanding of different attitudes and perspectives on climate change and policy, and how the same data and charts can support both optimistic and pessimistic views. It also inspired other journalists to take a more data-driven and analytical approach when reporting on climate change, by showing that data and statistics can present a balanced and accurate picture of the issue. The impact on the audience and community has been to help them understand the complexity of the issue and how different perspectives can shape public conversation and policy decisions. The use of data and statistics to support different viewpoints has also informed the public about the importance of considering multiple perspectives when making decisions about climate change.

Techniques/technologies used:

In this project from sueddeutsche.de, the team used R for data analysis and visualization. They used R packages such as dplyr, tidyr, and ggplot2 for data cleaning, transformation, and plotting. The infographics department refined the data plots for better visual representation. The data sources used were from the Global Carbon Project, the Global Carbon Project, and UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme). These organizations provide reliable data on carbon emissions, climate change, and environmental policies. The team used this data to analyze and support the different viewpoints presented in the article. The readers can use a toggle to smoothly switch between the optimistic and pessimistic view in the article. This allows the readers to compare the different perspectives and make their own judgement. The combination of R and data sources from reputable organizations enabled the team to present a data-driven and analytical approach to their reporting on climate change.

Context about the project:

This article was published during the Climate Change Conference in Egypt in November 2022, a crucial moment where the majority of countries’ climate policies were rated as “insufficient” to meet the Paris Agreement goals by the Climate Action Tracker (CAT) project, an independent scientific analysis. The report also stated that the current policies would lead to a warming of 3.2 degrees Celsius or more. The article uses historic projections of potential global warming, which were acquired by retrieving historic data from CAT via the wayback machine. The timing of this article’s publication during the conference is particularly relevant because it aims to raise awareness and understanding of the different attitudes and perspectives on climate change and climate policy and how these shape the public conversation and policy decisions. By providing a unique approach by allowing readers to smoothly switch between an optimistic and pessimistic view using a toggle feature, the article aims to educate the public on the complexity of the issue and the need for multiple perspectives when making decisions about climate change.

What can other journalists learn from this project?

This project serves as an example of how data-driven journalism can provide a unique and informative perspective on a complex issue like climate change. Other journalists can learn from the use of data analysis and visualization tools, as well as the use of multiple data sources from reputable organizations. The toggle feature that allows readers to smoothly switch between an optimistic and pessimistic view can also be an inspiration for other journalists to provide multiple perspectives in their reporting. Additionally, this project is a good example of how a data-driven approach to journalism can help to ensure that the public is better informed and can make more informed decisions about the future of our planet.

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