EJN Unpacks the Science Behind Climate Change for Journalists in East Africa

workshop participants study Climate Fresk cards

EJN Unpacks the Science Behind Climate Change for Journalists in East Africa

The latest reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) paint a grim picture for the future of our climate. Human activity and continued dependence on fossil fuels continue to produce dangerous greenhouse gas emissions: exacerbating glacial melt and sea level rise and intensifying extreme weather events such as droughts and floods. These changes threaten human, environmental and animal health. The Living Planet Report 2020, reveals that population sizes of mammals, birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles the world over have dropped by an alarming 68% since 1970.  

The effects of climate change are felt particularly hard in East Africa. Climate impacts have already led to the loss of lives and livelihoods, driving migration and rapid biodiversity loss in the region.  

On January 29, EJN’s East African Wildlife and Conservation project led a one-day workshop to support journalists to report on these impacts more effectively. This in-person training, held in Nairobi, came on the heels of many months of virtual webinars, such as the recent One-Health focused session on the relationship between human, animal and environmental health

Nine journalists from television, print, radio and online media outlets participated in the session, led by Noémie Matias. “As journalists you have the power to change the world through your coverage,” said the facilitator.  

Climate Fresk cards
Some of the Climate Fresk cards as arranged by Kenyan journalists in a quest to learn about climate change during the EJN workshop / Credit: Kiundu Waweru.

Matias used the Climate Collage, now Climate Fresk method, an innovative approach to build awareness about the climate crisis.  

At the session, participants were given a set of 42 cards to match causes and consequences, while also identifying the links between them. The cards range from the causes of climate change such as deforestation, intensive agriculture and the burning of fossil fuels, to its consequences such as droughts, heat waves, diseases, and an influx of climate refugees.  

a workshop participant reads a flash card
Hellen Shikanda of the Daily Nation, Kenya, reads one of the Climate Fresk cards as Henix Obuchunju of Pamoja FM looks on / Credit: Kiundu Waweru.

The activity helped journalists digest the science behind climate change – enabling them to sieve through much of the technical jargon in the thousand-page IPCC report and other research studies.  

As the journalists matched the cards with the guidance of the facilitator, they related this to on-the-ground experiences. For instance, they were amazed to hear that widespread practices such as rearing livestock, and especially beef production, are major drivers of climate change through methane emissions. 

“What an amazing insight into climate change,” said Sharon Kiburi, a freelance multimedia journalist. “Journalists always struggle with breaking down climate science. This training is really helpful towards this endeavor.” 

Toward the end of the session, journalists brainstormed possible story ideas: offering creative themes ranging from “water criminals” and “dry rivers” to “veganism in Kenya” and “the importance of rehabilitating wetlands”. 

Through its project activities in East Africa, EJN hopes to increase the quality and quantity of climate coverage in the region, investing in journalists’ capacity to report on the most challenging issue of our time. 

Journalists in Kenya now have the opportunity to apply for story grants to report on climate change. Applications are due by March 8. Click here for more information and to apply.  

Banner image: Noémie Matias, a facilitator with the Climate Fresk takes journalists through an activity to understand the causes and consequences of climate change during the EJN workshop held in Nairobi on January 29, 2022 / Credit: Kiundu Waweru. 

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