Bangladesh Can Teach Us How to Talk About Climate Change

All lights are out right here in my residence metropolis of Dhaka as I write these phrases. Cyclone Sitrang has knocked out the electrical energy in Bangladesh’s capital, plunging this metropolis of twenty-two million individuals into darkness.

However one factor we Bangladeshis are not at midnight about is local weather change. We perceive that overheating the planet has made cyclones—or hurricanes, as they’re referred to as in different elements of the world—stronger and extra harmful. We all know this largely as a result of our media have lengthy handled local weather change as a significant information story that the general public must learn about.

With essential United Nations local weather negotiations going down this month in Egypt, I hope information retailers in america and different highly effective nations will comply with Bangladesh’s lead. As report warmth, drought, fires, and floods afflict increasingly of humanity, it’s clear that our planetary home is on hearth. There are various options, beginning with quickly phasing out fossil fuels and electing politicians who will make that occur. However our expertise in Bangladesh illustrates that extra and higher information protection can be a necessary local weather resolution, as a result of it fosters the broad consciousness and public stress on governments and highly effective pursuits that’s wanted to place the hearth out.

Sadly, mainstream information retailers within the U.S. have an extended historical past of downplaying or misreporting the local weather story. Throughout Barack Obama’s presidency, U.S. information retailers devoted forty instances extra protection to the Kardashians than to how international warming was overheating the oceans, evaluation by the nonprofit watchdog Media Issues discovered. Through the nationally televised presidential election debates in 2008, 2012, and 2016, moderators requested the candidates not a single query about local weather change. Protection has elevated barely in recent times, however in 2021 local weather tales nonetheless accounted for a mere 1 p.c of complete information protection by ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox Information.

Not so in Bangladesh. Located on the delta of two of the world’s largest rivers—the Ganges and the Brahmaputra—Bangladesh has a really low-lying coastal area that fronts on the Indian Ocean. Tens of tens of millions of individuals reside in that coastal area, the place they’re threatened by flooding from the rivers in addition to cyclones from the ocean and sea degree rise, which is progressively making coastal soil saltier and endangering rice yields.

Local weather change is due to this fact a life-and-death difficulty for Bangladesh, and our media cowl it accordingly. Most information retailers—TV, radio, print, and digital—run local weather tales frequently. They usually play the story huge. State-run channels reminiscent of Bangladesh Tv in addition to non-public opponents reminiscent of Channel I run well-informed local weather tales on the prime of their broadcasts and additional discover the problem in standard speak exhibits.

Bangladeshi journalists and newsrooms woke as much as the local weather story as a result of they have been lobbied by consultants and, not least, by actuality.

I used to be considered one of 4 Bangladeshi local weather consultants who served as contributing authors to the Third Evaluation Report of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Local weather Change, revealed in 2001. At the moment, consciousness of local weather change was very low amongst each policymakers and journalists in Bangladesh. So I, together with my colleagues Atiq Rahman, Mizan Khan, and Ainun Nishat, reached out to temporary them. Media coated ticked up barely.

In the meantime, excessive climate occasions stored illustrating how susceptible our nation was. Cyclone Sidr, a class 5 storm that struck in November 2007, notably obtained newsrooms’ consideration. The IPCC had launched its Fourth Evaluation Report six weeks earlier. Due to our earlier briefings, Bangladeshi journalists now bombarded us with interview requests, wishing to know how cyclones like Sidr have been associated to international warming, in order that they may, in flip, inform the general public.

Over the fifteen years since then, the mixture of extra excessive climate and publication of extra IPCC studies has led increasingly of the Bangladeshi media to dedicate important, sustained consideration to the local weather story. When world leaders met at COP26 final November 2021, three Bangladeshi TV channels traveled to Glasgow to report reside on the deliberations. For nearly all eleven days of the convention, they broadcast a number of studies summarizing the important thing developments and analyzing their implications for Bangladesh and the world.

Amongst Bangladeshi print and digital retailers, the Dhaka Tribune, Prothom Alo and different main newspapers publish in-depth information tales and frequent opinion articles about varied facets of the local weather problem. I personally have lengthy contributed a weekly local weather column to The Every day Star, the nation’s main English language newspaper. Colleagues at information retailers that publish or broadcast in Bangla, the first native language, typically use the data and concepts in my columns in their very own protection that reaches a bigger mass viewers.

In consequence, the typical particular person in Bangladesh is sort of effectively knowledgeable about local weather change and what could be carried out about it. Surveys of public opinion throughout Asia by the BBC’s “Media Motion” basis discovered that Bangladeshis are by far the area’s most educated on the problem. As a result of our media additionally report on local weather developments overseas, Bangladeshis know completely effectively, for instance, who Joe Manchin is. They adopted how Manchin sank president Joe Biden’s Construct Again Higher local weather laws and the way Manchin and Biden later agreed on the scaled-back Inflation Discount Act.

The distinction with the U.S. is stark. When American TV networks cowl the punishing warmth, drought, and storms afflicting a lot of the world as of late, they often don’t point out that international warming fuels such excessive climate—an egregious oversight. When Hurricane Ian was bearing down on Florida, solely 4 p.c of U.S. nationwide TV networks’ preliminary protection even talked about local weather change.

Is it any shock, then, that the typical American is aware of so little about local weather change? Solely 39 p.c of Individuals know that the majority scientists agree that local weather change is occurring at this time, and solely 50 p.c know that it’s brought on by human actions, in keeping with surveys by the Yale Challenge on Local weather Change Communication.

This lack of public understanding helps to perpetuate the political established order. If extra Individuals voted like they understood the local weather emergency, the Republican celebration would both be swept from energy or must drop its lockstep opposition to taking critical motion.

I’m optimistic that U.S. information organizations will do higher. Protecting Local weather Now, a world collaboration of lots of of reports retailers dedicated to higher protection of local weather change, has helped newsrooms perceive that critical journalists merely can’t ignore the defining story of our time. Utilizing an strategy strikingly much like the one my fellow consultants and I employed in Bangladesh, the journalists who run Protecting Local weather Now present briefings and story concepts that assist newsrooms enhance their local weather protection. Additionally they appropriate the outdated impression that local weather protection turns audiences off, pointing to survey knowledge displaying that most individuals are involved about local weather change and wish motion taken, particularly by governments.

I’ve attended all 26 earlier UN local weather conferences, and at COP26, I seen a rise in U.S. media consideration: extra reporters and digital camera crews within the corridors, extra requests to interview me, extra articles by U.S. retailers in my day by day international information summaries. Empirical evaluation confirmed my anecdotal impressions. Normally a fierce critic of U.S. media protection, Media Issues gushed that “Morning and night information exhibits on ABC, CBS, and NBC, in addition to PBS’ night information program NewsHour, aired a whopping 53 segments on local weather change … as the primary week of [COP26] obtained underway.”

Now, U.S. information retailers should redouble their dedication. Humanity can’t defuse the local weather emergency with out way more formidable motion by the U.S., which continues to be the world’s largest economic system, to not point out its largest historic supply of emissions. Extra and higher information protection doesn’t by itself assure victory, however it’s indispensable to our possibilities of reversing course earlier than it’s too late.

Huq is interviewed in “Burning Questions,” a one-hour TV particular produced by Protecting Local weather Now, out there beginning October 25 on public tv’s WORLD channel

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