The climate crisis is one of the defining issues of our time. With the world experiencing the jarring effects of climate change, more and more people across the globe are becoming increasingly aware of the issue. But despite almost all scientists agreeing that climate change is happening, why do so many still reject the need for action? Does framing climate change simply as an “environmental issue” allow the public to treat it separate from society, politics and culture? How can we move away from the traditional “information deficit model” and communicate the climate crisis in a more effective and engaging manner?
By Rio Tuasikal
With the worsening effects of climate change, the role of environmental reporting is more important than ever, but the narrative used by major international media outlets continues to be problematic, several expert said at this year’s Asian Conference for Political Communication (ACPC).
“Environmental narrative continues to be based on the lenses of the Global North, where Global South coverage is disempowering and purports the helpless native,” said Dr. Lagipoiva Cherelle Jackson of Associated Press, USA, during the “Reframing the Narrative on Environmental Communication” session held on 13 October 2022.
The Samoan journalist claimed that stories are usually about people trying to survive, while local solutions from the Global South are largely ignored.
“Pacific Islanders and the Global South are coming up with solutions and highlighting the way that they themselves are surviving in the face of the climate crisis, and those locally-based solutions are not necessarily reflected accurately in the international media,” she said.
For the international editors from the Global North, she suggested a few tips to give more space for local voices.
“My advice to editors would be: ask local journalists, understand local nuances, and give space for them to tell those stories,” said Jackson, who has spent more than 20 years in journalism.
But climate change is a complex matter, and reporting it requires a special approach, said Prof. Deepti Ganapathy of the Indian Institute of Management Bangalore.
“Use frames, such as people, words, contexts, and consistently communicating climate stories through these. The more you are consistent in communication through these, the more your audience can associate things and understand,” she explained.
She added that putting local heroes in the story would be beneficial as an entry point.
“Important to highlight what’s happening in local communities and contextualise it with what’s happening in the world. People would understand that it’s not only affecting them, but everyone,” she said.
Aside from the media, the government and politicians also play a crucial role in communicating environmental issues to the public, Josh Manuatu of Australian Liberal Party emphasised.
“In Australia, people are installing solar panel on their rooftop. So it’s not just on what the government can do or at least could do. But also on the local and personal level, what can I do at my house?” he said.
But communicating climate issues is not that hard in Maldives, according to Ibrahim Waheed of the Maldivian Democratic Party.
“If the sea level rises, we are one of the fastest nations to disappear,” he said.
The panel is part of the ACPC 2022 held in Singapore on 12-13 October, hosted by Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS) Media Programme Asia. The biggest gathering of political communication experts brought together 220 participants from 40 countries.