Alone the national and the international mass media could not tackle the climate change issue sufficiently, until they are assisted by the regional mass media for the bottom line reporting.
The weather based services and information is about 200 years old in India. But India’s entry into global climate change arena had begun in 1990 with the term “survival and luxury” given by the Centre for Science and Environment [CSE, New Delhi] to the developed world. After which the climate change mitigation and adaptation ruled the policy, the media and the general public for more than two decades here.
The roles of research, reporting, results and responsibility [4-Rs] in climate change context could help the society to mobilize local audiences, policy planners and research teams on a single platform as well as enable the general public to be heard by millions within short span of time.
If these initiatives could not take up seriously, the repercussions would devastate the public’s confidence into the governance in the country. Already lagging behind in the climate change reporting as well as bearing the responsibility, the country should re-think about mass media use in the field of climate change. This piece of writing, therefore, is researched into the role of 4 ’Rs’ in climate change reporting in the society.
Climate change research in India -if linked with the first Chennai-bound ‘meteorological observatory’ set up in 1773 and further a total of 90 weather forecast stations in the year 1875 spreading across various parts of the country- is approximately 200 years old. After inclusion of the latest satellite data, ground- based remote sensing techniques and ocean data buoys, the climate change study have further strengthened and built up a self-reliant climate data bank in the country. Knowing that the temperature has already has been surged to 0.4 degree Celsius mark, events such as increase in seasonal rainfall have been recorded along the West Coast, northern Andhra Pradesh and north-east, while the east of Madhya Pradesh, North East, and parts of Gujarat and Kerala have been registered the decreasing seasonal rainfall.
The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has predicted drought, seasonal rainfall changes and decreasing maize and wheat productions in 2050s-2100s is showing early signs of the above events like severe droughts across much of Asia, heavy downpour to a specific region and remarkable changes in vegetation proper in 2020s, said a recent study done by the UK based Centre for Low Carbon Futures research.
The results of the researches of the above mentioned climate change catastrophes necessitate institutionalization of sound information systems both national and regional. The Environmental Information System [ENVIS] has been set up throughout the country to generate and provide environmental information through web based systems to policy planners, mass media and lay-audiences. Further a more down-to-earth approach has also begun by the Ministry of Environment and Forest [MoEF] where students had collected data on various environmental topics related to atmosphere, water, soil and vegetations and reported their findings to the global website. Moreover, India hosted the ‘Eight Conference of Parties’ [COP-8] to the UNFCCC to help in governing awareness about climate change among various stakeholders in the country during 23 October to 1 November 2002 in New Delhi.
Around 131 research teams drawn from primer research institutes, departments and non-governmental organisatons of repute have been engaged in preparing the GHG inventory, assemblage of vulnerabilities to climate change and development of adoption responses, assimilation of information relating to national circumstances across the country. Climate change reporting of mass media, though new in the country, has increased in select newspapers such as: the Indian Express, The Hindu, The Time of India, and The Hindustan Times from just 100 articles in December 2004 to 700 articles in December 2009. It is a bold mass media initiative in the country.
Although the regional vernacular mass media may have not done well in the light of other nation’s success in the field, a few new and social media such as ‘Internews Europe’ have engaged both rural farmers and urban slum dwellers through mobile phone technologies as a medium of communication in the country. As an outgrowth of this trend, mobile communication technologies have attracted the farmers to receive latest weather forecasts.
“Compared with 1990-2005 period, the 2020s will witness increasingly severe droughts across much of Asia due to decreasing availability of fresh water from seasonal rains and India was found to have one of the lowest capacities to adapt its wheat production, and central and northern India to adopt its maize production whereas China, Indonesia and Pakistan had relatively well placed to adapt to climate change”, said the recent UK report. The English-Language mass media across the country should move ahead with clear climate change reporting models with government interventions and cooperation.
This responsibility could be well shared by science communicators, science journalists and other interested persons to aid the government in the long term policy plan. One such initiative has already taken by the ICAR’S “Mobilizing Mass Media Support for Sharing Agro-Information” project on agricultural communication in select ten centres across the country. It has been trying to strengthen the regional mass media of the north-east region to publish agricultural news items with special attention to climate change reporting for informing the tribal farmers. The initial mass media response is encouraging though the language changing every 20-50 km in the region posed big hurdles in the way to connect to location-specific newspapers across the region.
The role of agricultural journalism under the project ‘Mass Media’ further needs the institutionalization of the project, though it needs the proper planning, but necessity is the mother of invention.
Author: Anil Solanki
Started in year 2010, ‘Climate Himalaya’ initiative has been working on the mountain and climate related issues in the Himalayan region of South Asia. In the last two years this knowledge sharing portal has become one of the important references for the governments, research institutions, civil society groups and international agencies, those have work and interest in Himalayas. The Climate Himalaya team innovates on knowledge sharing, capacity building and climatic adaptation aspects in its focus countries like Bhutan, India, Nepal and Pakistan. Climate Himalaya’s thematic areas of work are mountain ecosystem, water, forest and livelihood. Read>>