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Ups and Downs from Cape to Cairo: Journalisms Practice of Climate Change in Africa

  • Saleh, I. (2012). "Ups and Downs from Cape to Cairo: Journalisms Practice of Climate Change in Africa," In Eide, E & Kunelius, R. (eds) Media Meets Climate. Gothenburg: Nordicom, Sweden, pp.47- 63.

Today, information about global warming and climate change is readily available to average global citizens who watch TV news, and are able to see satellite pictures of changes in ocean temperatures, or of glaciers melting. However, the public risk perception affects natural hazards policy and management response systems that are subject to public debate. In fact, researchers have continuously noted that public risk perceptions drive policy as much as scientific risk assessments (Kellstedt, Zahran, and Vedlitz, 2008).Many media researchers in the developed countries have emphasized very low information literacy on the ecological risk of climate change. Since the early 1990 studies projected public’ confusion of stratospheric ozone depletion, greenhouse effects, and climate variability, and misunderstand the physics of the relationship between CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere and temperature change (Sterman, & Sweeney, 2002).The problem is more alarming in the developing countries, where public risk perceptions of climate change appear to correspond more strongly with demographic, ideological, identity, and institutional trust variables (O’Connor, Bord, Yarnal, &Wiefek, 2002).The picture seems to be dimmer in Africa as a result of being one of the most vulnerable continents to climate change. In many parts of the continent, agriculture is heavily dependent on rainfall patterns, and increasingly frequent and unpredictable droughts and floods cause big disasters. The situation is further worsened by the often poor state of economic development, extreme poverty and low adaptive capacity. If climate change is a major challenge for journalism globally, in this context the challenge is even bigger. As “a sort of instant historical record of the pace, progress, problems, and hopes of society” (Bennett 2002, 10), news reporting and media coverage is a key contributor in shaping both policy discourse and public understanding. Media coverage shapes the way people rank problems and make sense of their choices at the level of everyday life. Local practices of journalism also affect translations between science and policy and define our perceptions about environment, technology and risk (Weingart et al. 2000).

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Comment by Alain Parfait on May 7, 2013 at 14:41

Dr. Ibrahim thank you,

I think the communicator of the environment has a role to play in disseminating knowledge and practices on climate change! debate should be initiated in African channels!

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