Published on October 20, 2016
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. nalakagunawardene.com 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. nalakagunawardene.com International climate response for 20+ yrs, summed up… This is the way ththth
4. nalakagunawardene.com Climate communication: Mostly driven by panic, fear & hysteria…?
5. nalakagunawardene.com Have climate scientists & activists been talking in ‘right’ language?
6. nalakagunawardene.com 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. nalakagunawardene.com A Tale of Two Worlds? http://www.scidev.net/south-asia/environment/analysis- blog/climate-communication-key-to-survival.html Proper climate communication is key to our survival. But it’s easier said than done!
8. nalakagunawardene.com 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. nalakagunawardene.com 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. nalakagunawardene.com 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. https://orionmagazine.org/2013/03/on-the-art- of-climate-change-communication/ Dr M Sanjayan Vice President & Senior Scientist, Conservation International TV personality in the US
11. nalakagunawardene.com 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. nalakagunawardene.com Clarify popular misconceptions!
13. nalakagunawardene.com 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. nalakagunawardene.com 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. nalakagunawardene.com Greenhouse Gases: More than CO2! Others need tackling too…
16. nalakagunawardene.com Breakthrough: Using Montreal Protocol to control HFCs (legally binding treaty) https://www.theguar dian.com/environme nt/2016/oct/15/clima te-change- environmentalists- hail-deal-to-limit- use-of- hydrofluorocarbons
17. nalakagunawardene.com 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. nalakagunawardene.com http://www.grida.no/graphicslib/detail/black-carbon-bc-and-co-pollutants- from-incomplete-combustion_00a4
19. nalakagunawardene.com http://www.scidev.net/south- asia/publishing/analysis-blog/sooty-south-asian-air- and-global-warming.html
20. nalakagunawardene.com We need more stories on non- carbon climate actions! http://www.scidev.net/south-asia/publishing/analysis-blog/sooty- south-asian-air-and-global-warming.html
22. nalakagunawardene.com 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. nalakagunawardene.com Update yourself with latest info: Don’t be stuck with old data! Image by Times of India, 25 June 2015 (using 2012 data)
24. nalakagunawardene.com Don’t get too focused on annual “climate circus” of UNFCCC-COP!
25. nalakagunawardene.com Are climate COPs going to help them in time?
26. nalakagunawardene.com 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. nalakagunawardene.com 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. nalakagunawardene.com 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. nalakagunawardene.com Finally, don’t waste your time on climate skeptics and denialists!
30. nalakagunawardene.com 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. nalakagunawardene.com Ready or not… Change is coming! Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: twitter.com/NalakaG Blog: Nalakagunawardene.com