Climate Communications: Go Beyond Fear, CO2 and COPs! by Nalaka Gunawardene

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Information about Climate Communications: Go Beyond Fear, CO2 and COPs! by Nalaka Gunawardene

Published on October 20, 2016

Author: NalakaG


1. Communicating Climate Change: Go beyond fear, CO2 & COPs! By Nalaka Gunawardene Science writer & communication consultant Presentation at: Sri Lanka Next: Climate Communications Workshop for Journalists Colombo, 19 Oct 2016

2. Where I come from…  Trained as science writer, worked in print, broadcast & web media for 25+ yrs  Been covering climate change stories from 1988  Not obsessed with global climate talks; instead, looking at how to prepare for inevitable impacts + climate solutions  Part of Lankan expert team that prepared National Climate Adaptation Strategy 2011-2016 (esp. comm. strategy) 

3. International climate response for 20+ yrs, summed up… This is the way  ththth

4. Climate communication: Mostly driven by panic, fear & hysteria…?

5. Have climate scientists & activists been talking in ‘right’ language?

6. Communications since Rio 1992: It’s now a multi-narrative world…  Mainstream media: still important - even though their influence slowly declining  Many more channels & voices today:  Citizens armed with smartphones accessing online info sources, reacting & sharing  Advocacy orgs doing more direct engagement of public (without mass media)  Social Media: Blogs, FB, Instagram, Twitter: Loud, chaotic & contested public sphere!

7. A Tale of Two Worlds? blog/climate-communication-key-to-survival.html Proper climate communication is key to our survival. But it’s easier said than done!

8. Climate Communication: make it ‘Third plank’ in climate response  “As climate change impacts are felt more widely, the imperative for action is greater than ever. Telling the climate story in accurate and accessible ways should be an essential part of climate response. That response is currently organised around two ‘planks’: mitigation and adaptation. Climate communication can be the ‘third plank’ that strengthens the first two.” - Nalaka Gunawardene, SciDev.Net, 23 Apr 2014

9. Change is slow… But it IS happening!  We are well past the ‘ifs’ and ‘whens’ of climate change: it’s unfolding here & today — whether we’re ready or not!  Govts are committed to Paris Agreement  But they need to persuade their publics on behaviour changes & reforms needed  In democracies: public discussion & debate vital: climate can’t be saved by diktat!  Communications plays major role

10. Climate Communication is an art (based on science!) Environmentalists & scientists have failed to build sufficient urgency for action. We need new communication approaches. Some basic tips: 1. Tell more unique, local stories. 2. Focus on audience, not argument 3. Use emotion and narrative. 4. Be sensitive to North-South disparities. of-climate-change-communication/ Dr M Sanjayan Vice President & Senior Scientist, Conservation International TV personality in the US

11. What is to be done? Get the messages right…  We must move away from disaster- driven climate communications of doom and gloom  Focus on climate resilience & practical solutions to achieve it  What matters to average person:  Cheaper energy (economic benefit)  Cleaner air (health benefit)  Staying alive (public safety benefit)

12. Clarify popular misconceptions!

13. Go beyond those already ‘green’…  Climate justice notions, biodiversity conservation & other considerations appeal to those ALREADY concerned with issues.  To reach out & engage those unconverted, climate communication must use health, wealth & children

14. 3 key tips for climate communicators…  Don’t peddle fear: enough of doom & gloom! Talk of more than disasters & destruction  Look beyond CO2, responsible for only half of global warming. Don’t forget the other half!  Focus on local level impacts & responses: most people don’t care about UNFCCC or COPs!

15. Greenhouse Gases: More than CO2! Others need tackling too…

16. Breakthrough: Using Montreal Protocol to control HFCs (legally binding treaty) https://www.theguar nt/2016/oct/15/clima te-change- environmentalists- hail-deal-to-limit- use-of- hydrofluorocarbons

17. Beyond Carbon: Tackling the rest!  Not all greenhouse gases warm equally.  Many non-CO2 contributors have a higher global warming potential -- or how much heat they can trap in the atmosphere.  Some linger on in the atmosphere for much shorter periods than CO2  international attention now being focused on these “short-lived climate pollutants”, or SLCPs

18. from-incomplete-combustion_00a4

19. asia/publishing/analysis-blog/sooty-south-asian-air- and-global-warming.html

20. We need more stories on non- carbon climate actions! south-asian-air-and-global-warming.html


22. Challenges journalists face when covering climate change in media…  Technicalities: policymakers and public not clear about science involved  Uncertainties: further confusion caused by scientists not having all the answers  Politics: Some environmentalists use c/c to bash industrialized countries (debate gets polarized)  Language issues: Sinhala terms for weather (kala-gunaya) and climate (desha-gunaya) often get mixed up  much confusion!

23. Update yourself with latest info: Don’t be stuck with old data! Image by Times of India, 25 June 2015 (using 2012 data)

24. Don’t get too focused on annual “climate circus” of UNFCCC-COP!

25. Are climate COPs going to help them in time?

26. Journalists must connect dots… “Most people live and work in day-to-day ‘weather’. They can’t relate to long- term ‘climate’. It’s our job [as journalists] to make those links clear, simple and accessible...” - Tarzie Vittachi (1921 – 1993) Editor of Ceylon Observer & The Asian (Hong Kong); Columnist for: South (London), Newsweek

27. In connecting the dots…  Balance micro level details with the bigger/macro picture (both needed)  Acknowledge nobody has all the answers (collective action vital)…  See climate as much more than an environmental or ‘green’ issue: it also benefits human health, agriculture, and overall economics

28. My own Triple-S Formula in covering climate stories…  Informed by Good Science (but not immersed in it!)  Tell authentic, compelling journalistic Stories  in Simple (but not simplistic) ways (using accessible text, images, infographics, audio, video, interactive media…)

29. Finally, don’t waste your time on climate skeptics and denialists!

30. SUMMARY: Balances to keep…  Micro-Macro: pixels vs bigger picture  Scientists’ cautions vs activist claims  Media needs vs. public interest  Sense of urgency vs. undue alarmism  Catchy headlines vs. uncertainties to be acknowledged  Staying with long-term stories while reporting current events

31. Ready or not… Change is coming! Email: Twitter: Blog:

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