Communicating climate change is an "orphan" issue among policy-makers, according to speakers at Climate Communications Day, the first ever day-long public forum organized by and for journalists at a climate summit.
"I am not exaggerating when I say that reporting on the UN climate change talks is one of the best experiences an environment journalist could ever have. Suddenly it seems as if everyone in the world talks only about forests, water and climate."
The media has been telling a tale of two crises: they are complex, interconnected and have much in common. The common threads include richer countries living beyond their means and racking up high levels of financial and ecological debt over several decades leading to an economic and financial crisis. In Europe, we are due for a substantial adjustment in living standards, to get back into balance. Analysts reckon that in the UK, families will only regain their 2002 incomes by 2016 – and that’s if all goes to plan.
The impacts of climate change do not happen overnight but play out over decades. Funders looking to support people to adapt to those impacts must take the long view and accept that their investments may not provide measurable outcomes for ten years or more.
Tell me a fact and I'll learn. Tell me a truth and I'll believe. But tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever. Indian Proverb
Stories matter. The first session of the Climate Communications Day for journalists and media specialists at the UN Climate talks in Durban focused on the importance of telling stories to get the right messages out. A good story has accurate information, but – crucially – it also has a personal angle. The trick, to quote Randy Olson, is getting fact and emotion together to tell an engaging story. How the story gets told depends on what needs to be communicated, who we are talking to, and what medium we are using.