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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.

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