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Whatever the weather: media attitudes to reporting climate change

How climate change issues are reported in the media in developing countries is a theme which has, until now, received little attention. The media play an important role in stimulating discussion in developing countries, yet journalists interviewed for this report say the media have a poor understanding of the climate change debate and express little interest in it.

Developing countries urgently need to debate the options available to them for addressing climate change. Important topics for debate include the Kyoto Protocol, how to adapt to the effects of climate change, how to deal with climate-related disasters, and whether to play a role in reducing emissions at home. Establishing existing perceptions of climate change with media professionals in Honduras, Jamaica, Sri Lanka and Zambia, this report finds that there is little knowledge among journalists about these important choices and that they are rarely discussed in the various media, which include radio, newspapers, and television broadcasts.

Some key recommendations for enhancing the role of the media in communicating and furthering climate change issues are that:

  • there should be constant interaction between the people who have the information, the media and those affected by climate change to create awareness of the issues
  • the media should be encouraged by all stakeholders to play a key role in the climate change debate
  • scientists and policy-makers must break down the climate change jargon
  • policy-makers should finance training programmes for journalists to raise awareness and understanding of the issues around climate change
  • policy-makers should invest in public media initiatives such as multi-stakeholder dialogues, which would provide space and resources for journalists who want to cover key environmental themes
  • important information should be made available in a variety of languages
  • the media should focus on people-centred climate change stories to make the issues real to the public.