Blog post

Communicating climate change internationally

Feb 16, 2012 by | 6 Comments

A great deal of the English lan­guage research and ana­lysis of cli­mate change com­mu­nic­a­tion focuses on the US/Canada and the UK. This is not sur­prising – as wealthy, indus­tri­al­ised nations, they have the fin­an­cial resources to sponsor this kind of research.

But look fur­ther afield, and there are lots of examples of cli­mate change com­mu­nic­a­tion resources that have a more inter­na­tional feel.

A major research pro­gramme funded by the BBC World Trust studied atti­tudes to cli­mate change in ten African coun­tries, including Nigeria, Ghana and Uganda. As well as pro­du­cing some of the first Afro-centric data on public per­cep­tions of cli­mate change, it made some recom­mend­a­tions for com­mu­nic­ating cli­mate change more effect­ively – crit­ical for shaping adapt­a­tion strategies across the continent.

Focussing spe­cific­ally on Uganda, the Panos Eastern Africa study ‘Hidden Heat‘ reported the res­ults of a wide range of inter­views with key cli­mate change com­mu­nic­ators in the country, including journ­al­ists, policy-makers, cam­paigners and aca­demics. One of the more sur­prising find­ings was that it tended to be news­paper Editors – rather than journ­al­ists working on cli­mate change stories – who were acting as a bar­rier to effective com­mu­nic­a­tion. While know­ledge and capa­city among envir­on­mental journ­al­ists has increased in Uganda in recent years, at the Editorial level, cli­mate change is still not treated as a major concern.

The improve­ment in stand­ards of envir­on­mental journ­alism in Uganda, other African coun­tries, and indeed across the world is at least partly to do with the work of the International Institute for Environment & Development (IIED). In its role coordin­ating the Climate Change Media Partnership, it has awarded dozens of journ­al­ists from devel­oping coun­tries fel­low­ships and training to develop their capa­city to report on envir­on­mental issues, and espe­cially cli­mate change.

And through pub­lic­a­tions written by Mike Shanahan such as ‘Why the media mat­ters in a warming world: A guide for policy makers in the Global South‘, and ‘Time to adapt? Media cov­erage of cli­mate change in non-industrialised coun­tries‘, the IIED is con­tinuing to pro­mote effective cli­mate change com­mu­nic­a­tion in coun­tries where the capa­city to con­duct research or train journ­al­ists effect­ively is often minimal.

From an Asian per­spective, the China Dialogue web­site has often acted as a hub for people inter­ested in com­mu­nic­ating cli­mate change more effect­ively in China and the East. Sam Geall’s report on cli­mate change journ­alism in China – based on inter­views with Chinese journ­al­ists – is espe­cially rel­evant, and makes the case for increased cooper­a­tion between Chinese and Western media houses and devel­op­ment agen­cies in pro­moting effective and accurate cli­mate change journalism.

There are also some inter­esting examples of com­mu­nic­a­tion work being developed for more spe­cialist areas. is an inter­na­tional net­work that seeks to cham­pion the rights of the global south in the debate about REDD (Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) which is sup­posed to allow devel­oping coun­tries with crit­ical resources like rain­forests to receive pay­ment from pol­luting nations in order to keep those forests intact, or to embark on pro­grammes of tree planting to help absorb some of the world’s excess carbon. Because it is such a knowledge-intensive and com­plex field, ini­ti­at­ives like are invaluable.

And the Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CGIAR) research pro­gramme on Climate Change, Agriculture has recently pro­duced a brief on how to com­mu­nicate the con­cepts behind carbon trading and “carbon fin­ance” to farmers, fol­lowing a con­fer­ence in Nairobi.

Is there an internationally-oriented resource that you know about that should be included on Talking Climate? If there is, then let us know, and we’ll add it to our list of resources.

6 Comments + Add Comment

  • Nice post Adam. Readers might be inter­ested in this selec­tion of tips for cli­mate change journ­al­ists, based on training present­a­tions to journ­al­ists from around the world, and espe­cially the global South, that I have given in recent years.

    It includes some of the wisdom of journ­al­ists Tim Radford (Guardian) and Alex Kirby (BBC).

  • Hello again, I should add that the Climate Change Media Partnership, which you men­tion above is coordin­ated not only by the International Institute for Environment and Development but also by Panos and Internews, in the alli­ance we set up in 2007.

  • Thanks for this com­pli­ation on com­mu­nic­ating cli­mate change in inter­na­tional set­tings. As well as the report on the Communicating Carbon work­shop you site there is also a related Policy Brief from the World Agroforestry Centre:

  • Another Asia-focused web­site is, which looks at what’s hap­pening to the entire Himalayan range and down­stream areas as a result of cli­mate change. Since these down­stream areas are huge, it effect­ively covers all of South Asia and China, plus parts of South East Asia and Central Asia.
    A good source to check how well the media in India is (or isn’t) cov­ering cli­mate change is the Centre for Media Studies in New Delhi, which has done at least a couple of reports tracking the cov­erage.
    BBC Media Action (that’s the new name for its World Service Trust) has started a much-expanded ver­sion of Africa Talks Climate, and they’re calling it Climate Asia — it’s spread over seven coun­tries.
    There are many journ­al­ists in coun­tries like Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa, Nepal, Bangladesh, Thailand, Indonesia, The Philippines, Australia etc who cover cli­mate change very well indeed. You can get a fla­vour from the web­sites of the Climate Change Media Partnership and UNFCCC

  • The Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism has car­ried out some inter­esting research, led by James Painter, on media cov­erage of cli­mate change across a range of countries:

  • For gov­ern­ment class!

    Climate change has been a growing issue over the past 50 years. The global com­munity has been taking more notice and it has become a respons­ib­ility
    that everyone is account­able for. The cli­mate change is the result of
    green­house gas emis­sions. While every country adds to this green­house gas,
    the United States is account­able for an aston­ishing 15%. This is an issue
    that affects every­body because it is a global issue.

    The global com­munity so far as cre­ated The Department for International Development (DFID) that helps to reduce carbon emis­sions abroad and attempt
    to deal with the affects of the changes in the Earth’s cli­mate. The United States has also helped with this issue by giving fin­an­cial sup­port to third world counties to help them pro­duce and sell solar powered tech­no­logy to
    help reduce the affects of cli­mate change. The Council of Foreign Relations
    of the United States has also estab­lished an Independent Task Force to
    inspect the cli­mate change strategy. They sup­port inter­na­tional cooper­a­tion
    and seek for a United Nations cli­mate change agreement.

    There are mul­tiple ways that coun­tries could start addressing this issue.
    In addi­tion to giving just fin­an­cial sup­port to coun­tries we could be
    edu­cating adults and chil­dren around the world on everyday choices they can
    make in their life. These choices include com­muting, housing, elec­tri­city,
    and recyc­ling. All easy steps everyone around the world can take to help
    solve this problem. Gasoline is a major con­trib­utor to the green house gas. About three-quarters of human-made carbon dioxide emis­sions are from
    burning fossil fuels. A dif­ferent solu­tion to this problem would be to
    start making all cars hybrids or even only start making cars that have a
    large mpg. This would not only help cli­mate change but also with gas
    prices. Lastly we would need to start using wind, water, and solar energy
    for homes and com­panies. Cutting back on these fossils fuels would account
    for get­ting rid of 75% of the green house gas emissions.

    Here in our com­munity small things such as planting seeds in the ground, to pro­duce trees, can help the cli­mate change by a lot. A single tree can
    absorb one ton of carbon dioxide over its life­time. Or just by adjusting
    our ther­mo­stat by 2 degrees cooler or warmer can save 2,000 lbs. of carbon dioxide a year. By just checking and making sure they are prop­erly inflated means good gas mileage. For each gallon gas saved, 20 lbs. of carbon
    dioxide are never pro­duced. Just small things like this may help our
    com­munity by a lot. It’s just the pro­cess of taking the time to do these little things that matter.

    In con­clu­sion this is a ser­ious issue that should not be taken lightly. Greenhouse gases can stay in the atmo­sphere for 100 years or more. A
    siz­able chunk of what we emit today will still be around, even if we were
    to stop all emis­sions today, the world would con­tinue to grow warmer from
    the gases we’ve already added to the atmo­sphere. Adding even more could
    push some eco­lo­gical sys­tems beyond the point of recovery. Scientists have
    been studying tech­no­lo­gical fixes, such as shading the planet from incoming sun­light. But it’s not clear whether those tech­no­lo­gies would work. Even if
    they did, they would cause envir­on­mental havoc, such as dam­aging the ozone
    layer or leaving some parts of the world with too little sun­light or not
    enough rain­fall. Without decreasing our green­house gas pro­duc­tion all the coun­tries are put­ting their people and homes in danger.

Make a comment

Creative Commons 2011 - 2015, Talking Climate
A project by COIN & PIRC.
This website is a project of Climate Outreach

This website, a project of Climate Outreach (COIN), has been integrated into the new Climate Outreach website. Any updates since 21 October 2015 have been made to the new website only, not here, and this website will soon be deleted. Please bookmark our new website – we look forward to continuing to share the latest in climate communication research with you. We are now tweeting from @climateoutreach so please follow us there.