Your Climate Future

Country/area: Norway

Organisation: NRK

Organisation size: Big

Publication date: 28 Nov 2020

Credit: Ragnar Rognstad, Mads Nyborg Støstad, Susanne Stubberud Rom, Vidar Kvien, Martin Skjæraasen, Renate Rognan, Harald K. Jansson, Martin Holvik

Project description:

The project consists of 356 data-driven, illustrated and animated long-feature articles, one for each municipality in Norway. The story explores how the livelihoods in each municipality will change towards the end of the century due to climate change, i.e., how much hotter, more rain, less snow and higher sea levels there will be, compared to the levels of today. Enormous amounts of data on municipality-level are utilized to create a feeling of localness. An animated character serves as the reader’s companion throughout the story.  

In the landing page, search for “Molde”, “Kautokeino” and “Oslo” for different variants.

Impact reached:

The value of the project lies in its total scope and illustrates how nearly every part of daily life will be affected by climate change. None of the revelations are necessarily shocking understood alone, it’s the total compilation of data that is truly alarming and innovative. The project reached about 540 000 readers, a high number for an NRK-story.

We shared our findings with several small newspapers across the country, who in turn wrote local articles based on our data and findings. The project also led to various follow-up stories from local divisions of NRK.

We gathered qualitative feedback from readers in the article footer. Among the feedback were especially the friendly non-doomsday presentation, and the easy-to-understand text and graphics. Several teachers wrote that they would like to use the article in their classroom. Many mentioned that the story helped them to relate to climate change in a new fashion, because it illustrated what the changes will mean for aspects they personally care about.  

Techniques/technologies used:

We assembled all data collected from various organizations in Google sheets. This included both data about each municipality (altitudes, forest types, size etcetera), how the climate is there now (rain, skiing days, temperature, typical storm surges), and how those values will change if the RCP4.5 emission scenario is fulfilled. In total: over 40.000 data points. Based on the data and filtering of each municipality, we rendered out illustrations and text. In municipalities located near glaciers the story included how much the ice level in the nearest glacier would drop. In municipalities with coastline, we included a section stating how much the sea level will rise, while municipalities with lakes received a section of how the freshwater fish will cope. The journalists wrote variants of the paragraphs in sheets, while the municipality filters determined how it was rendered. 

The article is developed with node.js and Svelte. Animations are a hybrid between JavaScript-animation and sprite animation.

What was the hardest part of this project?

One of the central premises of the project was that the reader should experience the feature as local, because we believe it is easier to grasp climate change when its impact is close in time or close in area. That premise was probably the hardest. Our data told us a lot of what was applicable to include in each story, but it also had certain limitations. For instance, the data said that one municipality had 134 skiing days per year. That may be true in theory, but 10-20 skiing days were more realistic, locals felt. The data did not reveal that those potential skiing opportunities were on a steep mountain hill, not recommended for skiing. All 356 articles should ideally have been read through by a resident from each municipality before the project was published. We did not reach that goal completely, but great crowdsourcing searching for local feedback a few days before the deadline really enhanced the result. The response from readers also indicated that the extremely local references we included in some municipalities were much appreciated.

The local feeling was also maintained in terms of the graphics and illustrations. We could for instance not illustrate steep mountains, as some residents in flat municipalities might find that strange. A few municipalities in Northern Norway don’t have spruce trees thus we had to draw birch and apply them to the areas in question. That was our mantra throughout – don’t illustrate or write anything that would put the reader off and make her think “it’s not really like this where I live, so I don’t know if the part about climate change is true either”.  

What can others learn from this project?

We recommend close and open cooperation between journalists, designers and developers, who don’t mind stepping into each other’s field of expertise.

Project links: