A few weeks ago, I got the chance to use a combination of the Banking on Climate Change’s Data Explorer (which lets you filter through information on the top fossil fuel financiers by the bank and company) and the Global Coal Plant Tracker (which provides mapped information on coal plants) while doing research for a photo series that I was working on. I realized that by combining the use of these tools, I would be able to identify which specific coal plants that banks have funded to better understand the true reach of fossil fuel financing – and I was impressed.
I suddenly saw the potential of data resources for mapping such as this, and it got me thinking: what are some other data resources for climate journalists out there, and how can we apply it to our reporting? Given that many of us are under lockdown right now, this is an ideal time to work on data-driven pieces.
Why is Data Important?
“Data is no longer this robotic thing whereby it turns your reader off but it allows the writer to enhance the understanding of their audience and gives credibility to their arguments.” – Daryll Griffith (Climate Tracker Data Journalism Fellow and Data Scientist based in Trinidad and Tobago)
“Journalists can use these tools to track specific data, patterns, or trends for use in their investigations and identify cases to build new stories.” – Roxanne Joseph (Oxpeckers Investigative Environmental Journalism)
Carbon Brief has a number of interactive Map and Timeline tools, such as this one on coal, extreme weather, nuclear power plants, or where multilateral climate funds spend their money. In 2019, they won the award for Best Data Journalism Team Portfolio (Small Newsroom) – so you know they’re doing great work!
World Resources Institute
WRI has a treasure trove of data platforms and data libraries, such as the Energy Access Explorer, Water Peace and Security tool, Climate Watch (on countries’ climate progresses), Global Forest Watch, LandMark (on land held by Indigenous communities), and more. Recently, they also created Resource Watch (still under beta testing) in partnership with over 30 partners, featuring hundreds of data sets on the planet’s resources and citizens.
Oxpeckers is Africa’s first journalistic investigative unit focusing on environmental issues. The Center combines traditional investigative reporting with data analysis and geo-mapping technology to offer free interactive data tools such as #WildEye or #WildEyeAsia, #MineAlert, PoachTracker, #GreenAlert, and ClimaTracker (not related to Climate Tracker!). These tools allow journalists to track everything from mining, illegal wildlife trade, poaching, to environmental crime stories, and also includes communities that journalists can share information with or pitch their own stories based off of the data.
Earth Journalism Network
EJN has partnered with a number of websites to combine data journalism with traditional reporting through features such as geo-tagging, custom mapping, and interactive graphics. By visualizing environmental and Earth Science data, journalists are able to back up their storytelling with scientific evidence and give a broader picture of regional environmental challenges. Their tools and datasets include ones such as InfoAmazonia and InfoNile.
Last but not least, you have definitely heard of this tool before – but may not have given it a second thought. In this guide, the Global Investigative Journalism Network shows how journalists can get started with the Google Earth Engine Timelapse, Google Earth for Chrome, and Google Earth Pro. You can also see some examples of how past journalists and students have been able to use this popular tool for journalism!
Ready for more information on how to use these data tools as well? Check out these webinars!
- Earth Journalism Network webinar on Harnessing Data to Expose Inequality and Wildlife Trafficking
- Pulitzer Centre webinar on Investigating Environmental Crimes: The Data, the People, the Money