We know climate change; we do not know climate change. The international discussions on climate change had started years before the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED, or the Rio Summit) was held in Rio de Janeiro in June 1992. However, since the Rio Summit, where the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change was worked out, discussing the changing climate has become a global pastime.
We have strong views, strong observations. When floods come, droughts strike or fires rage, we see climate change in it. At the same time we fail to see the linkage between international climate change negotiations and many of our local environmental developments.
The issue of climate change divides us all. There are climate sceptics who deny that climate change is happening. There are climate alarmists who proclaim apocalypse at the slightest excuse.
Climate change impacts the way we live and the choices we make as societies. Our countries have taken strong national positions at international climate change negotiations. They continue to debate over issues of equity, right to emit and common but differentiated responsibilities.
The South Asian region is a microcosm of the global discussions on climate change. India, along with China, have grown in the past decades as emergent economies and along with their gross national products their gross national greenhouse gas emissions have also grown. Both these countries have been arguing against binding emission reduction targets in the international negotiations.
Nepal and Bhutan, sandwiched between India and China, feel the impact of changes on the glaciers caused by emissions from their neighbours and also from black snow that their own emissions cause.
When glaciers melt, there is flood downstream in the Gangetic system in India and Bangladesh and the Indus river system in Pakistan. The coast in Bangladesh, Pakistan India and Sri Lanka are vulnerable to rising seas. Agriculture in all the countries of South Asia is vulnerable to rising temperatures and increasing frequency of extreme weather events.
Media mediates the discussion on climate change in these countries. Long-term media monitoring studies by the Center for Science and Technology and Policy Research at the University of Colorado, Boulder, USA, have shown that there are increasing numbers of stories just before, during and after the annual conference of parties to the climate change convention. These are policy level stories on national positions. All through the year there are local environmental stories, which many a time do not link to the international or national climate change discussions.
This blog links the macro with the micro. It is driven mainly by the stories filed by the South Asia Climate Change Award (SACCA) media fellows. These are 24 environmental journalists from Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka working on climate change stories for their media houses. Their stories link the environmental developments in their regions with what is being discussed at CoPs and the national environment ministries. They are anecdotal, quoting the person on the ground, even while benchmarking it with scientific opinion.
Together, the stories look at climate change from a South Asian perspective. Nature knows no political boundaries, and when journalists network to look at a situation from another country’s perspective, their stories become that much richer.
Not all events are caused by climate change. Neither can we be blind to climate change. Science and people’s perception on climate change are evolving. It is in this context that media bridges the gap by disaggregating the information, promoting public discussion and promoting democratic decision-making. This blog facilitates that process.