Climate Change Media Partnership

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Climate Change and Journalisms Practice: Ups and Downs


Climate change reporting requires a different type of journalism from typical science reporting: challenging climate research. Scientists are usually frustrated that journalism does not explain how climate change and global warming would affect Earth's systems and, consequently, future generations of humans. In this heated debate, scientists argue that the task of informing the public about climate change should not be left to journalists, while journalists believe that scientists do not like talking to media, and always like to deal in complexity without simplifying the content.

In dealing with journalism practice and climate change in the current media globalization, many academic and professionals wrestle with significant questions related to scope, objectives, genre, spatial focus, actors and emphasis. Despite the nuances and details particular to some issues like development and climate change related challenges, there lies the thorny concern about how we prioritize the topics most worthy of study and, consequently, how we then choose to represent actors, contexts, spaces, places, processes and interconnectivities in relation to them.

The research argues that the relationship is inspirable, and journalists must strengthen their relationships with the experts to better understand the significance of research findings, especially in developing countries where journalists need more training, networking and mentoring in order to communicate science better.

The research empirically analyzes the journalisms’ practice in five countries that are considered to be the global south of print media in five countries’ coverage of the Bali summit.

Climate change is a complex subject by any standard, especially in the developing world, where media coverage of global warming is inadequate. Nonetheless, there is a general realization that the climate is changing, ignorance about the causes and projected impacts are widespread. Yet the deficit is more worrying in the global South, where countries are the most vulnerable to its impacts such as worsening drought and rising sea levels.

This happens at a time, when the global south is experiencing profound changes and challenges through multiple, shifting, fragmented and often contradictory modes of identification (Brown, 2001). Many of the global south countries have been experiencing a burgeoning of nationalist sentiments and struggles, and numerous bloody wars that were fought over inclusive and exclusive conceptions of identity.

Since the early 1990s, virtually all developing countries have refused to adopt greenhouse gas emission reduction commitments in the name of fairness. In fact, the very suggestion that poorer nations limit their industrial growth has led to a hostile negotiating environment (2007). The absence of an effective global agreement that brings rich and poor nations together to protect the climate raises broad questions about the determinants of interstate cooperation related to transnational environmental threats (Detlef, 1994). Over the past 20 years, scholars have argued that outcomes in international environmental politics are shaped by material self-interest, bargaining power and the ability to strong-arm weaker states through more coercive forms of power (Victor, 2001).

The global south politics has constantly attempted to explicate and examine the grounds of its very being. This is a politics which has not been able to take for granted the nature or number of its primary actors. It is a politics that seeks not merely to distribute power, or to acquire and maintain power, but to define the nature of power itself. Many different political visions contend with one another in the political arena; even the limits and nature of the arena itself are questioned and tested (Thornton, 1996).

In this context, global climate change significantly generates policy debates about its causes and consequences on major media channels. Presidential hopefuls and policy-makers across the political spectrum seem to have absorbed the news that the changing global climate is a cause for serious concern and action. Researchers argue that a huge gap remains between the science of climate change and the media realities as projected by political agenda, which certainly attributes to the difficulties in transmitting and translating scientific uncertainty into decisive media narrative and also resonates with the dysfunctional aspects of the science-policy interface (Bradshaw & Borchers, 2000).

In a globalizing world, distant geographies are not only becoming more complex by the day, one way or another, they are becoming more and more pertinent to the sustainability of the lives we all lead. Besides, there was the focus shifts from core economies to the Global South (especially Latin America, the Middle East and Africa), which was also followed up with an analytical shift as well, from applying an economic geography lens to understand the spatial and regional dynamics of economic activities, to employing a development studies lens to understand and explain why developing regions are struggling to succeed in the global economy.

What is needed is an enhanced responsibility to distant geographies of the global south, which certainly do not lack intellectual challenge because they are encountered far away; they are not irrelevant to us because they emanate from other societies and cultures. Unfortunately, this does not appear to be the case in the climate change issues and how media and politicians view the nature or constitution of ‘development’ and the factors driving its spatial unevenness; especially when it comes to issues of representation and identity in the global south; global warming causes and its prospective (policy) solutions; and socioeconomic phenomena and their spatial or regional characteristics (environmental degradation).

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