The media must first understand the science of climate change in order to help transform abstract knowledge into concrete actions that benefit vulnerable sectors.   

The complexity of climate change science, and the jargon associated with it, pose a challenge for adequate media coverage of climate change issues and also for understanding by the public.

Recognizing this challenge, the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), the Philippine Agricultural Journalists, Inc. (PAJ), the Philippine Federation of Rural Broadcasters (PFRB), and their partners have been conducting seminar-workshops since 2014 to educate the media about climate change. The latest seminar-workshop was organized on 26-27 July 2018 in Dipolog City in Zamboanga del Norte, Philippines. 

Beyond the press (praise) releases

At the workshop, Prof. Johnny Goloyugo from the Asian Institute of Journalism and Communication, who also serves as a PAJ Director, listed several ways of communicating climate change. He emphasized that tapping into the human angle adds relevance to a climate change story. For instance, people tend to be more interested in the resilience and struggles of their fellow human beings, than in an abstract concept manifested through natural disasters.

Prof. Goloyugo also suggested focusing on initiatives that address climate change, over its impacts and threats. This way of reporting enables people to perceive climate change as a surmountable scenario, rather than a “gloom and doom” scenario. This approach entails the media exploring more angles of a climate change story, beyond generic press or “praise” releases. These could be highlighted utilizing the radio, a traditional but still relevant media platform today.

Dr. Rogelio Matalang, President of PFRB, discussed a pilot rural radio campaign in Cagayan Valley titled, “Climate Change: iBroadkas Mo!” This campaign harnesses the power of radio to communicate climate change in rural areas. Its main component is a school-on-the-air program titled, “Kaalamang Pagsasaka sa Himpapawid,” which aims to educate farmers about climate-smart agriculture and hybrid rice production in Cagayan Valley. Dr. Matalang shared that Phase I of the radio campaign will end this August with the graduation of its more than 10,000 farmer-enrollees.

Participants during the seminar-workshop in Dipolog City, which focused on activities that encourage multi-sectoral collaboration in developing climate change stories. 
Photo: Renz Celeridad (CCAFS SEA/
ICRAF Philippines)

Media convergence

Dr. Rex Navarro, a CCAFS consultant, discussed the convergence of media platforms (print, television, radio, social media) catalyzed by the Internet. He emphasized that if harnessed, this convergence can facilitate communication and engagement of stakeholders in climate change adaptation and mitigation. Dr. Navarro added that multi-sectoral engagements will lead to better integration of climate change into government policies, academic sources, and civil society efforts. Mr. Noel Reyes, Vice President of PAJ, reminded the participants that climate change is a “complex topic to cover;” hence the need for all sectors to learn from one another.

Linking knowledge with action

Dr. Navarro synthesized the Dipolog seminar-workshop through a butterfly model that situates the media in the knowledge-action continuum on climate change. In his model, the media is a part of the butterfly’s body, which corresponds to close linkages among research, extension, and stakeholders.

Completing the butterfly model, which will then allow climate change initiatives to take off, are programs and policies anchored on strong political leadership and strategic public-private partnerships; Climate-Smart Villages where climate change programs will be upscaled; and climate-smart technologies and services sustained by market and support systems.

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Renz Louie Celeridad is the Junior Communications Specialist for the World Agroforestry Centre Philippines. He also works as a Communications Consultant for CCAFS SEA.