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Tea break with... Damian Carrington

We sat down with Damian Carrington (PhD Geology 1994), Head of Environment at the Guardian, for a quick chat about his career as an environmental journalist and his hopes for more action following COP26.

Damian Carrington

Tell us a bit about your studies.

I graduated with a PhD and post-doc in geology in 1994. This included an amazingly memorable expedition to Antarctica. But I think my attention span was a bit short for academic life, so I started writing science stories for newspapers.

How did you get into writing about environmental issues?

My first job was at BBC's Tomorrow’s World magazine, then BBC News Online. I went to New Scientist next and then the Financial Times. It was in 2008 that I took the opportunity to join the environment team at The Guardian - I made that move because it felt like climate change was going to be the biggest story of this century. 

How does your current work address the issue of climate change?

I spend all my time reporting on the triple crisis the planet is in - climate, wildlife loss and pollution. The Guardian has always taken the environment very seriously. In the decade I have been with them, the team has expanded. But the basic approach has largely stayed the same – environmental issues affect everything, so should feature across all our coverage. 

I have written nearly 2,000 stories for the Guardian, and I’d hope most of them have played a part in building awareness of environmental issues.

And in your personal life?

It’s impossible to write about it every day and not act. I'm vegan, my home is fully insulated and my energy supplier is renewable. I rarely fly for holidays and I cycle to work.

How do you hope COP26, its participants and even institutions like the University will help move the issues forward?

COP26 must deliver bigger promises of action to cut carbon emissions from the major polluting nations and billions of dollars of finance for the low-income countries that have done little to cause the climate crisis, but are suffering the worst impacts. Big shifts will be driven by the governments we elect (in democracies) and the companies to which we give our custom. But our personal action is also important.

The outcome of this conference will be vital - nations are going to have to make big increases in the carbon cuts they pledge if we are to get anywhere near the 1.5C temperature rise seen as a safety limit. My colleagues and I will be reporting day in, day out, across the world, holding nations and companies to account for the environment and for social justice.

Related links

COP 26 and the University of Edinburgh

Damian Carrington at The Guardian (external)