Perhaps no challenge is as grave, and no story is as big as climate change.
The increasing focus on the impacts of climate change in media demonstrates the menace that we are exposed to now and/or that we would encounter in the foreseeable future. As these stories are mostly of negative connotations, shift in media portrayal of climate change perhaps makes sense. This opinion piece sheds light on the areas where the media might pay attention to apart from what they are currently highlighting.
For instance, the stream of climate stories focusing the communities that have become resilient to climate change would leave more positive impacts on the readers. The stories could further be developed about the technologies that are feasible and have the high potential of addressing the causes of human induced climate change. The transition of entrepreneurs and businesses to green with the underlying reasons and the eventual benefits of such transition could be the game changer, particularly for other businesses. Media articulation of such success stories, therefore, might mobilize actions that have far-reaching impacts.
In addressing a "wicked problem", what matters the most is the results of our actions. Results are, however, only achieved with the policies that are not only ambitious but also have a realistic chance of being implemented and of performing well on the ground. Over the last decade, many interventions have been immensely successful in cutting down greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and/or enhancing not only adaptive capacity of the people at the risk of climate change but also contributing to transformational changes in their lives.
Renewable energies have done well throughout the world and are expected to leapfrog coal by 2024, as forecasted by the International Energy Agency (IEA). Now, the replication and upscaling of those that are delivering the intended results should be the prime concern. And it's all about communication of positive results with appropriate groups of people in a timely manner. Media storytelling of effective results, if framed fittingly, may leave lasting effects on the target groups.
In addition, good media coverage that presents robust solutions and provides evidence of what is effective and what is not also have a greater chance of influencing policymakers on where to focus more and why policy review may be a solution.
People are often wasteful – both at home and outside. We demonstrate this attitude in our everyday life while using resources, such as, water and energy, which we are yet to truly value. On the other hand, there is a moral debate on the vast quantity of foods that are being wasted globally per annum when so many people remain unfed and many don't have a square meal a day.
However, less or occasionally discussed matter is the level of energy that is also being wasted along with food wastage. From production to transportation and in the form food is being served to the plates, quite a significant amount of energy use is involved, a fact that often goes unnoticed. Once the food is being wasted, we are already responsible for a significant amount of GHG emissions. Regrettably, further GHG emission occurs when the waste food stuffs are dumped in the landfills and this time, methane (CH4), 28 times more potent compared to CO2, is being released into the atmosphere. Hence, wasting food has multifaceted dimensions to consider – ethical, financial, environmental.
Water is not an exception and to be fair, no resource can be taken for granted. Understanding the consequences of wastage and the awareness of people may address these problems. In that vein, features could be run by media to induce behavioural and attitudinal changes of people.
Not everyone across the globe reads scientific articles or the reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and reasonably so. These are specialised knowledge products where results are often concluded based on different models and are targeted to specific groups of people. An average citizen cannot readily comprehend these. It is, however, to be realised that the climate change affected populations would try to understand more about how they could adapt to the changing climate and what are the possible ways to address climate change. While media outlets are not scientific publishing house/journal, they can surely delineate the evidence-based findings of scientific articles and the major talking points of IPCC assessment reports understandable to the readers of all strata of the society.
Climate change negotiations take place at the climate summit, namely the Conference of the Parties (COP), hosted annually by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), to reach, inter alia, the climate agreements. The technical complexity along with the language of negotiation is not something everyone can grasp easily. The media, therefore, has a significant role in providing the foundation for public discourse on climate change taking into account climate science and the direction of climate negotiation.
Despite the increasing impacts of climate change, the efforts from the promoters of the fossil fuel industry to present disinformation and to frame climate change as a debate whether climate change is really happening or a hoax cast doubt among general people. Without any bias, the media shall present the facts of climate change and all the negative externalities, for example, of coal, which are borne by the society.
I would like to conclude here with that, not only as an advocate of climate protection but also as an important driver for climate actions, the media coverage of factual, frequent and timely issues of climate change with solutions perhaps would lead to the meaningful change required to address climate change. It's also a role of the media to clearly make people realise the connection between people and climate change and how the connection is interlinked globally.
The author, Shafiqul Alam, is an environmental economist and former fellow at Ecologic Institute, supported by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, Germany
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of The Business Standard.