Climate change is bringing different ordeals for people in the same geographical patch. From extreme flooding in Pakistan to drought in China, it’s unfathomable to see how drastic weather patterns punish people in neighbouring countries, that too in wholly different ways. While climate activism has always remained in vogue, it is unfortunate that the relative importance of climate change communication as a critical cog in the climate action wheel is barely emphasised.
Mostly, the ongoing climate change communication is on the menace and possible harms, but wide of the mark about how we try to accomplish the critical goal of not just raising public fear, but moving people to act. Today it has become more important than ever to engage in such climate change communication that avoids misunderstanding of risk management at the grassroots and focuses on countering the barrage of misinformation that complicates advocacy for social action.
For so many years climate change has been framed to convey the statistical evidence that indicates effects of carbon in the atmosphere. However, there has been a failure to integrate solutions in a handy way for the benefit of policymakers as well as public. Consequential to which a dissension aroused between the actual issue and the tangible actions that people need to take in order to address the problem. Also it caused only alarmist reactions to the climate crisis, and a counter attack of opposition from those who assumed the issue to be nothing but a basin for substantial changes to our way of life.
Mostly, the ongoing climate change communication is on the menace and possible harms, but wide of the mark about how we try to accomplish the critical goal of not just raising public fear, but moving people to act.
A major problem with communicating any science to grassroots is the excessive use of jargon and technically difficult terms that ordinary people with little to none background knowledge find difficult to comprehend. The gap between science and local language deepens as we move from top to bottom hierarchy in any society. This gap makes climate action discourse highly unresponsive for people who might not have much to contribute towards climate change, but get most affected in case of any climate crisis. It is important to make climate communication clear, concise and consistent, making available credible evidence and focusing on facts rather than the qualms. There’s a need to present concrete action with clear and localized messages to connect everyone, and not think of this emergency as distant.
It is also important to note that the way we’ve been contextualizing climate emergency over the years by mostly using pictures and stories from Polar Region and Arctic Circle, a common perception has been built among masses that climate change is something that would happen in future or even if happens now, it won’t extend beyond the North Pole. Such a climate change framing cultivates an attitude of indifference among people who aren’t able to relate much to the concept. How can we assume such framing is helpful for climate literacy of farmers from South Asia who resort to paddy stubble burning and contribute to hazardous smog and more? Dissonance in space-time continuum visa-a-vis climate change communication bars us from internalising the prevailing threat, thus also hampers any immediate action. It’s high time we start sharing localized stories instead of building upon images from much far away.
Another dilemma that surrounds our climate change communication is too much reliance on data, statistics and huge numbers. There’s substantial evidence that suggests figures and calculations generally don’t help people in making sense of prevailing issues. Therefore, moving beyond the idea of knowing too much, to utilizing energies in making use of that information for a feasible action is the need of time. Data heavy reports and statistical findings loaded with technical jargons are not very useful to create a common man’s understanding of climate action. The focus has to be shifted from merely educating the masses and assuming that action will follow, to rather making action on the problem our core priority.
A major problem with communicating any science to grassroots is the excessive use of jargon and technically difficult terms that ordinary people with little to none background knowledge find difficult to comprehend.
It’s imperative to realize that local communities pay heed to any issue more when connected through actual experiences, lived examples and true stories. However such manifestations are rare on the mainstream media. Also, the actual power of media remains unharnessed in setting the agenda right for grassroot activism around climate emergency. It’s a paradox that although with the emergence of new media tools the possibilities for user-engaging content creation and broadcast increased manifold, but unfortunately this potential for climate literacy is untapped. It is important to comprehend that people think of the world and its possibilities using stories and images instead of probability charts and powerpoint penetrations. Social media, podcasts, reels and stories are all crucial to reaching the masses in an era of cyber activism. Heterogeneous audience pool demands use of diversified media tools. Mitigation and adaptation behaviours can be inculcated into masses only by putting all available media to use wisely.
Reinforcement of climate action messages through social media tools is also useful for citizen-led transitions, and expediting local acceptance and participation in climate activism. Appropriately targeted and fairly engaging campaigns on social media handles allow better chances for problem solving — no matter what development goal is at hand. Also, the importance of public participation and engagement that is outlined in Sustainable Development Goals provides a clear framework as to how productive behaviours can be embedded in public conduct. At this moment there is a dire need for policy makers to make apt use of social media and internet communication resources so that a reasonable audience bulge can be engaged that in turn influences decision makers while rallying and giving agency to individuals who want to get involved.
Finally, it is impertinent to mainstream climate change at all levels of the system, because that’s how an attitude change among masses can be induced effectively. For this reason resorting to concerted communication campaigns that are not only fairly engaging but also localized enough to influence ordinary people at grassroots is important. It’s high time we realize that climate change is as tangible as any other social issue. It’s not just another hashtag for online media. Unless we utilize communication to interpret climate change and raise cognizance in a language that is localized, comprehendible, and empathizing for masses, attitude change cannot be actually hoped for. It is advisable for climate communicators to categorically break down the climate emergency discourse problem-by-problem so it is understandable and not just apprehensive.