The challenges of communicating climate change

The challenges of communicating climate change
Walker Institute

The challenges of communicating climate change

After several years working as an environmental reporter, I had the pleasure to mentor a group of 14 reporters from across the globe attending the COP23 of climate change in Bonn, Germany. The invitation came after having attended COP20 and COP21 and having already worked on training environmental reporters in Latin America. Every year, reporters working on environmental issues apply to be part of the Climate Change Media Partnership (CCMP), an initiative of the Earth Journalism Network (EJN), a global organization that groups over 5,000 environmental reporters. It’s a competitive grant, with hundreds of applicants from different countries.

While the aim might seem to obtain financial support to attend a COP, it’s actually not only about that. Reporters work side-by-side during the two weeks of the conference, learning from each other and gaining insights on an issue as challenging to communicate as climate change.

Apart from being at the venue to cover the negotiations, the group of reporters received training on specific skills to report on climate change such as using digital tools, learning the science of climate change, using data and metrics and understanding how the negotiations actually work.

It was a rewarding experience that proved the need to support and encourage journalists working on climate change, especially in developing countries. There is a large interest from them in learning more about these issues and to start reporting on them, despite the challenges they might face in a world of shrinking newsrooms.

Nevertheless, the opportunities are there to grab. Before attending COP, I organized at Claves21, a network of Latin American environmental reporters I co-founded, a free eight-week online course on climate change for Latin American reporters. Hundreds signed up from many countries, taking an active role in the course.

Climate change is indeed the story of the century, as EJN’s head James Fahn frequently claims. It’s a story not only about science and climate but also about business, travel, politics and even food. It’s ground-breaking but not necessarily always catastrophic. Because of that and many more reasons, newsrooms and reporters will have to step up and live up to the challenge.

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