Media: Crucial tool on climate action

Elizabeth Andreya Features Writer
Climate change is one of the most pressing challenges facing humanity today. Some of the biggest threats relate to water scarcity, reduced agricultural output, spread of diseases like malaria and biodiversity loss, among others.

In Zimbabwe, scientists say the country now experiences more hot and fewer cold days than before. Daytime temperatures increased by about 0,4°C between 1900 and 2000. The period from 1980 to date has been the warmest since Zimbabwe started recording its temperatures, they say.

The timing and amount of rainfall received are becoming increasingly uncertain. Recently, the United Nations brought together 45 representatives fromthe Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services; United Nations Communications Group; Embassy of Sweden, including 24 representatives from various media platforms; editors and senior journalists from July 7-10, 2019 in Masvingo, Zimbabwe.

The three-day workshop focused on a number of issues, including media coverage on climate action. It highlighted the need for media in Zimbabwe to be capacitated to report on climate action and other humanitarian issues.

During the workshop, participants underlined the need for Government, UN, development partners and the media to work together on climate action issues to enhance disaster risk reduction to address recurrent natural disasters such as droughts, floods, cyclones and outbreaks of diseases. Media coverage of global warming has had positive effects on public opinion on climate change.

In December 2018 one of South Africa’s leading daily online news websites ran a story proclaiming that it was launching a series called “Our Burning Planet”, which is a call to action from the newsroom, which acknowledges that it’s finally time to start reporting on how much of a threat climate change is to our country and “civilisation”. Issues on climate change are often seen as boring by most reporters and only a few are willing to report on the subject.

In some cases it is all because most journalists have only a little knowledge on climate-related issues, and the language which is used by environmental specialists on climate can hardly be understood by the reporters. In most of our newsrooms climate change issues are seen as an environmental story, and the environmental beat is still seen as a nice-to-have rather than headline news.

Only a few newsrooms have specialist science or environmental reporters, and a few newsrooms give climate issues front page slots, because they don’t join the dots between a functioning environment, and a healthy society.

It is important for media practitioners to put more emphasis on environmental and climate action issues just like what is done to political and economic issues. Although the media has a great role to play on climate action, journalists also need society-wide support.

We all must become journalists, reporting on climate impacts in our communities and raising awareness about possible solutions. More so, journalists must become better schooled. Journalism institutions should require graduates to undergo interdisciplinary training that better prepares them to explain scientific and environmental issues.

Primary and secondary schools as well as universities should also incorporate environmental education into all courses. This will help journalists on how to report on climate issues. Some media practitioners do not know much about climate issues.

Hence, it is important to equip them with requisite education on climate issues and skills on how to report about climate action. In cases where journalists write about climate action, the language used is too complicated to make sense to their audience, therefore, even the audience ignore the issues, because they cannot understand the language.

It is of great importance that the media avail weather information in vernacular languages so that people understand what is being said. There is no need for interpretation that way, and communication becomes easier. There is need for the media to simplify the language when writing about the subject and, most importantly, to write with the language and terms that can be understood by everyone to enable climate action.

Moreover, the Government should also invest more in universities, and training institutions where journalists are trained so that they do additional courses on climate and the environment. The training will enable them to know how to report on these issues.

Media houses should include guest columnists in newspapers or on their news websites for climate change stories, as this will give space for climate-related stories. These spaces can include articles from environment specialists and other people who are willing to write about the subject.

In addition, each and every community should have access to media outlets to enable communities to access information regarding climate issues. Climate action is goal number 13 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which call for urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts. Climate change presents the single biggest threat to sustainable development everywhere, and its widespread, unprecedented impact disproportionately burdens the poorest and most vulnerable.

Urgent action on climate change and its impact are integral to successfully achieve all SDGs.

Collectively, the three post-2015 agendas for action — the Paris Agreement, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction — provide the foundation for sustainable, low-carbon and resilient development initiatives under a changing climate.

Pursuing climate action and sustainable development in an integrated and coherent way offers the strongest approach to enable countries to achieve their objectives efficiently and achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Source : The Herald

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