What is the state of climate reporting in Pakistan?

Unfortunately, the state of climate reporting in Pakistan is very ad hoc and event-related. Very few outlets have specialised climate reporters. Media usually takes up issues in the wake of a natural disaster or a major event like the COP28 summit in Dubai.

In between, climate coverage is a mere amalgamation of official statements, report launches, round tables and press conferences. This is a dangerous disconnect in a country that has not been able to exit the top ten bracket of the global climate vulnerability index.

With all eyes on the UAE, where world leaders have gathered for the COP28 summit, Dawn is speaking to experts to answer pressing, everyday questions that are on people’s minds about climate change-related issues.

How can climate journalists raise awareness and spur behavioural changes?

Behaviour changes are by far the most difficult and time-consuming tasks; only journalists should not be burdened with it. There has to be a societal realisation of the issue’s gravity, with each segment playing its part. There has to be cohesion in the narrative across the education, conversation, advocacy and activism platforms for journalists to be able to create the desired impact with their reportage and in-depth stories.

Reporters have to see climate change as an intersectional issue and break away from the barrier of assigned beats. They must reach out to a broader audience and speak to them in the language they are familiar with about issues they are vested in without necessarily throwing the science of climate change at them.

Today, Afia Salam, a senior journalist covering environmental issues, explains the shortcomings of climate reporting in Pakistan and how to cover the doom and gloom of climate change to avoid desensitisation.

Are people becoming ‘desensitised’ to climate change ‘doom and gloom’?

Being an alarmist does that. It either desensitises people or makes them a fatalist, leading to inaction. Journalists must not tread this path. There is definitely a heightened sense of urgency to tackle the fallout of climate change, but the manner in which this is communicated can either spur people to take matters into their own hands or become overwhelmed by the magnitude of the task, and accept the fait accompli. One extreme example of this is young couples refusing to have children because of their perception of a dystopian world awaiting the next generation.

How important is it to cover those working to mitigate the impacts of climate change?

It is extremely important to present success stories, climate change ‘heroes/sheroes’ and their successful interventions. Focusing on the positives of green growth and green economy and the multi-sectoral opportunities of green jobs should be able to lift the pall of despondency. There are many such successful regional and global examples which seem relatable and replicable. Such inspirational persons and their interventions must find their way into our journalistic content.

Published in Dawn, December 4th, 2023

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