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Reporting on the climate crisis: ‘For years it was seen as a far-off problem’

Our correspondent talks to her predecessor about how global heating went from a ‘slow burn’ to the biggest story of all

“The perception that the climate is not really news has been blown apart by the rise in extreme weather that has made the climate crisis unignorable.” Photograph: Christof Stache/AFP/Getty Images

Devastating floods across Europe, killer heatwaves in Canada, wildfires across the US. Extreme weather has hit the headlines across the world in the past few weeks, and even climate scientists have been shocked by its severity and extent, which they say is clearly linked to human activity in heating the planet.

It all comes as no surprise to Paul Brown, the Guardian’s former environment correspondent. He was warning of the consequences of climate change nearly four decades ago, from the mid-1980s, as scientists began to raise the alarm over greenhouse gas emissions and their potential impact.

The big problem then with writing climate news was that nearly all of it was based on predictions of the long-term future. “When I was writing, we were talking about what would happen 50 years away,” he said. “It needed all our ingenuity to make it sound like a news story, because people find prospects that far into the future quite boring.” [continue]