Editor's note

Veteran Great Barrier Reef expert Jon Brodie often thinks of his PhD students and despairs. The young scientists have a quenchless thirst for new knowledge about the marine wonder. They want to make it better, healthier, more resilient. But climate change and other processes threaten the reef’s very existence. In a few decades’ time, Brodie wonders, what will be left for these scientists to study?

“It’s very depressing for me,” Brodie said of the reef’s prognosis when we spoke this week. “It’s unlikely we’ll have extensive coral reef left in the world within 50 years. It could be earlier." 

Brodie’s personal reflection will be featured on The Conversation this week as we join a global media initiative to better tell the story of the climate emergency.  The Conversation has joined more than 250 news outlets around the world to run focused climate coverage in the lead-up to a highly anticipated climate action summit in New York on September 23. Together, participating outlets have a combined reach of well over one billion people.

The Conversation is committed to delivering responsible, evidence-based journalism that helps readers understand the world’s most pressing issues. We hope this week of coverage helps fulfil that mission and, ultimately, adds to pressure on governments to treat climate change with the urgency it deserves.

This week’s global media effort is part of a broader project, Covering Climate Now, which encourages journalists to improve climate change reporting.

This mobilisation of the world’s media resources comes at a critical time. Last October, a scientific report by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned the world had just 12 years to radically slash greenhouse gas emissions if it hopes to avoid the most catastrophic impacts of global warming, including extreme weather.

For Australians, the past year is a portent of what is to come. Most of the country is gripped by crippling drought. Last summer was Australia’s hottest ever, and last winter was one of the driest on record. A warm, dry spring is on the way and experts predict a monster bushfire season this summer.

But despite Australia’s unique vulnerability to climate change, our greenhouse gas emissions are rising. We must turn the ship around, and quickly.

Our coverage this week will be a guide on how we might do it.  We kick off the coverage today with Director of the Australian National University’s Centre for Climate and Energy Policy, Frank Jotzo, who takes stock of Australia’s progress on climate action and how we are perceived on the issue by our global peers. Former Australian of the Year and respected climate scientist Tim Flannery will tell us why the gloves are off when it comes to dealing with climate sceptics.

Director of the Monash Climate Change Communication Research Hub, David Holmes, will discuss the push for TV weather presenters to talk about climate change, and respected Murdoch University climate scientist Bill Hare will tell us which countries are leading, and failing, the pack on climate action.

Each day this week, our popular Climate Explained series will answer burning reader questions: why don’t we have zero-emissions electric planes? How much climate change is natural? Why are climate change sceptics often right-wing conservatives?  We will also debunk climate myths, explore climate anxiety among young people and consider whether severe environmental harm should be considered a crime against humanity – and lots more.

We hope you enjoy this special week of coverage on The Conversation. Climate change is the defining issue of our time – let’s give it the attention it deserves.

Nicole Hasham

Section Editor: Energy + Environment

Top story

The Port Kembla industrial area in NSW. Industry emissions can be cut by improving efficiency, shifting to electricity and closing old plants. Dean Lewins/AAP

Australia to attend climate summit empty-handed despite UN pleas to ‘come with a plan’

Frank Jotzo, Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University

The UN has asked world leaders to bring concrete climate action plans to this week's summit - and Australia is likely to cop heavy criticism.

Flood damage in Bundaberg, Queensland, in 2013. Most communities are at some risk from extreme events, but repeated disasters raise the question of relocation. srv007/Flickr

‘Climigration’: when communities must move because of climate change

Tony Matthews, Griffith University

Climate change has got to the point that communities around the world are having to contemplate moving. It's never an easy process, but good planning improves the prospects of successful relocation.

Wes Mountain/The Conversation

As Scott Morrison heads to Washington, the US-Australia alliance is unlikely to change

David Smith, University of Sydney

While the prime minister will no doubt discuss the US-China trade war with US President Donald Trump, the relationship is a friendly one, and that will not change under the current regimes.

With its multiple camera lenses, some people may think the new iPhone favours function over form? John G. Mabanglo/EPA

Apple’s iPhone 11 Pro wants to take your laptop’s job (and price tag)

Andrew Maxwell, University of Southern Queensland

The idea of a phone that can do everything is hardly new. But the premium pricing of Apple's iPhone 11 begs the question of how far this trend can realistically be taken.

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