The SZ Climate Monitor

Country/area: Germany

Organisation: Süddeutsche Zeitung

Organisation size: Big

Publication date: 29/03/2021

Credit: Stefan Kloiber, Sören Müller-Hansen, Benedict Witzenberger, Verena Gehrig, Felix Hunger, Sebastian Tanke, Sabrina Ebitsch, Christian Helten and Sara Scholz, also involved were Wolfgang Jaschensky, Carina Seeburg, Marlene Weiß and Malte Hornbergs


Süddeutsche Zeitung’s award-winning Data Team was established in 2018 to focus on data-driven reporting across all topics, with close links to the Investigations team (known for the Panama Papers, among other stories). Although it is a standalone unit of the newsroom, the team always works very closely with specialist editors from the other departments, graphic designers and developers, combining their expertise and skills with their own to achieve the best result for readers. As the team sees it, data journalism is first and foremost journalism – its goal is to tell stories, explain complex issues, expose injustice and corruption. The team is committed to constantly learning, experimenting with new tools, sources and storytelling formats, and providing the best possible experience for Süddeutsche Zeitung readers – online and in print. Exchanging ideas, sharing knowledge and learning from each other are important pillars of the philosophy. Towards their readers, they try to be as transparent as possible – publishing detailed descriptions of their methodology, source code and raw data wherever possible. 

Project description:

How humans are destroying the Earth – and how we can still save it. The most important data and background information on the world’s biggest crisis: This is the SZ Climate Monitor. With a clear, always up-to-date dashboard, it shows the most important figures and long-term trends at a glance, and is at the same time a landing page for analyses, columns and reports that dive deep into various aspects of the climate crisis.

Impact reached:

The SZ Climate Monitor is very well received by readers, is shared a lot on social media and is the entry point for many readers to the other articles on what is probably the most important topic of our time.

Techniques/technologies used:

The Monitor makes use of several data sources, some of which flow in automatically. The graphics are partly built with the tool Datawrapper and partly programmed by the Visual Desk team itself. The data cleansing and analysis is done by the Data Team mainly in R.

What was the hardest part of this project?

A major challenge in this important topic is to communicate to people the urgency of action, to show where we are and where we are currently going, and to create a sense that we can really make a difference through our behavior in the here and now. Dashboards demonstrated these qualities in the pandemic, with their measures, comparisons, and trends showing, virtually on a daily basis, where we were and how our behavior, driven by actions, holidays, or vaccination preparedness, affected the situation for better or worse. The dashboards picked people up in their everyday lives and became the main orientation and basis for discussion for many. Doing the same for the climate crisis is more difficult because, at first glance, it is not felt as strongly in our everyday lives. At first glance. The Climate Monitor uses long-term trends, as well as monthly comparisons and even last-hour renewable energy production share, to create a topicality. By linking to current analyses and articles, the reader is always provided with the latest information.

What can others learn from this project?

This project learns from the successes of coronavirus pandemic reporting and uses the lessons learned to report on another important issue. It shows how we can give a sense of timeliness and urgency to issues where data does not renew daily or where the impact is not felt overnight in people’s daily lives.

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