Climate change communication still inadequate – Report
Many Africans blame themselves for the impacts of Global Climate Change, despite being least responsible for the causes, a pan-African research report from the BBC World Service Trust and the British Council, has said.
It said perceptions about weather change are rife but they do not connect it to global Climate Change, but attribute the impacts being witnessed to the will of God.
It hinted that terminologies on Climate Change were difficult to translate hence providing little insight on impacts and changes.
It added that the African local leadership and citizens needed space to exchange ideas, foster understanding and plan for action.
It said many in the sector assert they lack knowledge of Climate Change and consider it too scientific and not audience priority.
It stated that Africa Talks Climate was the first step in developing long-term strategies for sharing information on the subject area through all channels of communication.
The research covered Ghana, Uganda, DR Congo, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Kenya, Senegal, South Africa, Sudan and Tanzania.
Just as a lack of practical information and resources hindered attempts to combat the HIV/AIDS pandemic, now millions of people whose lives are directly impacted by climate change do not have access to relevant, appropriate information that would help respond to challenges they face.
These are some of the findings of Africa Talks Climate, the most extensive research ever conducted on the public understanding of climate change in Africa.
Over 1,000 citizens took part in discussions across ten countries, from Sudan to South Africa, Kenya to Ghana.
The research found out that people tend to cite local issues such as tree cutting and bush burning rather than global emissions, as the greater cause of their changing climate.
Some people, notably women and those from rural areas attribute changes in climate to the will of God.
Many feel powerless in their struggle with changing weather patterns and in an echo of a common early response to the HIV/AIDS pandemic, some attribute extreme weather as a form of divine punishment.
Among nearly 200 opinion leaders interviewed from the media and government representatives to religious and community leaders, many highlight the information gap and compare the challenges of communicating climate change to those of HIV/AIDS.
“When it started nobody wanted to believe it…but before we knew it, it hit us left, right and centre…And the same thing is going to happen with climate change,” says Joyce Mhaville, Managing Director of ITV Tanzania.
Caroline Nursery, Executive Director, BBC World Service Trust said the role of the media in strengthening information provision was crucial.
She said “the initial global response to communicate effectively about the HIV and AIDS pandemic was slow and often inappropriate to local needs: the media have had a critical role in helping combat HIV/AIDS in Africa and must be supported do so again in the case of climate change.”
The key communication challenges highlighted by Africa Talks Climate were; many Africans are struggling in the face of increasingly unpredictable weather and therefore needed information and resources.