Brexit and Trump. These are the two new buzzwords that ring around the world. How would the exit of Britain and incumbency of Donald Trump as the US president affect meeting the targets that world nations pledged to meet in the Paris agreement last year? There’s no clear-cut answer. Fears that Brexit might derail EU’s attempt to mitigate climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions exist. Trump has stirred up fears that the US might back out of the Paris climate change agreement. Germany and China urge the US to remain.
How are we to convince the public and the politicians involved in this debate? Scientific records show that climate change is wreaking havoc. Not only through changing weather patterns or melting glaciers, but also by spreading global environmental health problems. The public seems to be skeptical of not only the politicians but also of scientists and climate change data.
To be optimistic, it is high time for journalists to report on climate change responsibly with facts, not just opinions, while considering the matrix of cultural, religious, social and political values of our audience.
Social media and new journalism practices such as citizen journalism might help here. There are both good and bad of reporting on complex issues based on fears and sentiments, if not alternative facts or fake news. As journalists, we have to make the best use of the new media and get to the bottom of singleton stories related to climate change.
One can also take another approach. A recent trend in journalism is to mine for readers’ comments under news or feature articles on a particular subject. Readers indeed come up with sensible questions and these serve as a starting point to research and report stories on. Several outlets including the BBC have already started doing this.
Will this all help mitigate climate change within our time? Perhaps not! But this could be a starting point for a greater change, where journalists can actively contribute. Forget Brexit. Forget Trump. It’s all about the audience and their understanding now. Is our message clear? That’s what matters the most!
Vijay Shankar Balakrishnan
Vijay is an academic-turned-journalist, writer, and podcaster. He is a devourer and writer of all things health, science, technology, and environment that have something to do with life and ethical maintenance of it. When not reading and writing, you will find him cooking, hiking, singing, watching movies or doing yoga - all with his biochemist wife.
A voice from the Triangulation through Science Communication project.