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Bangladesh Can Educate Us Find out how to Speak About Local weather Change


All lights are out right here in my dwelling metropolis of Dhaka as I write these phrases. Cyclone Sitrang has knocked out the electrical energy in Bangladesh’s capital, plunging this metropolis of twenty-two million folks into darkness.

However one factor we Bangladeshis are not at nighttime about is local weather change. We perceive that overheating the planet has made cyclones—or hurricanes, as they’re known as in different elements of the world—stronger and extra damaging. We all know this largely as a result of our media have lengthy handled local weather change as a significant information story that the general public must find out about.

With essential United Nations local weather negotiations going down this month in Egypt, I hope information retailers in the USA and different highly effective international locations will observe Bangladesh’s lead. As report warmth, drought, fires, and floods afflict an increasing number of of humanity, it’s clear that our planetary home is on fireplace. There are a lot of options, beginning with quickly phasing out fossil fuels and electing politicians who will make that occur. However our expertise in Bangladesh illustrates that extra and higher information protection can also be an important local weather answer, as a result of it fosters the broad consciousness and public stress on governments and highly effective pursuits that’s wanted to place the hearth out.

Sadly, mainstream information retailers within the U.S. have a protracted historical past of downplaying or misreporting the local weather story. Throughout Barack Obama’s presidency, U.S. information retailers devoted forty occasions extra protection to the Kardashians than to how world warming was overheating the oceans, evaluation by the nonprofit watchdog Media Issues discovered. Through the nationally televised presidential election debates in 2008, 2012, and 2016, moderators requested the candidates not a single query about local weather change. Protection has elevated barely in recent times, however in 2021 local weather tales nonetheless accounted for a mere 1 p.c of complete information protection by ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox Information.

Not so in Bangladesh. Located on the delta of two of the world’s greatest rivers—the Ganges and the Brahmaputra—Bangladesh has a really low-lying coastal area that fronts on the Indian Ocean. Tens of thousands and thousands of individuals stay in that coastal area, the place they’re threatened by flooding from the rivers in addition to cyclones from the ocean and sea degree rise, which is steadily making coastal soil saltier and endangering rice yields.

Local weather change is subsequently a life-and-death difficulty for Bangladesh, and our media cowl it accordingly. Most information retailers—TV, radio, print, and digital—run local weather tales regularly. And so they play the story large. State-run channels comparable to Bangladesh Tv in addition to non-public opponents comparable to Channel I run well-informed local weather tales on the prime of their broadcasts and additional discover the problem in fashionable speak reveals.

Bangladeshi journalists and newsrooms woke as much as the local weather story as a result of they had been lobbied by consultants and, not least, by actuality.

I used to be one among 4 Bangladeshi local weather consultants who served as contributing authors to the Third Evaluation Report of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Local weather Change, printed in 2001. At the moment, consciousness of local weather change was very low amongst each policymakers and journalists in Bangladesh. So I, together with my colleagues Atiq Rahman, Mizan Khan, and Ainun Nishat, reached out to temporary them. Media lined ticked up barely.

In the meantime, excessive climate occasions stored illustrating how susceptible our nation was. Cyclone Sidr, a class 5 storm that struck in November 2007, notably bought newsrooms’ consideration. The IPCC had launched its Fourth Evaluation Report six weeks earlier. Due to our earlier briefings, Bangladeshi journalists now bombarded us with interview requests, wishing to grasp how cyclones like Sidr had been associated to world warming, in order that they might, in flip, inform the general public.

Over the fifteen years since then, the mixture of extra excessive climate and publication of extra IPCC stories has led an increasing number of of the Bangladeshi media to commit vital, sustained consideration to the local weather story. When world leaders met at COP26 final November 2021, three Bangladeshi TV channels traveled to Glasgow to report stay on the deliberations. For nearly all eleven days of the convention, they broadcast a number of stories summarizing the important thing developments and analyzing their implications for Bangladesh and the world.

Amongst Bangladeshi print and digital retailers, the Dhaka Tribune, Prothom Alo and different main newspapers publish in-depth information tales and frequent opinion articles about varied facets of the local weather problem. I personally have lengthy contributed a weekly local weather column to The Day by day Star, the nation’s main English language newspaper. Colleagues at information retailers that publish or broadcast in Bangla, the first native language, typically use the data and concepts in my columns in their very own protection that reaches a bigger mass viewers.

Consequently, the typical individual in Bangladesh is kind of effectively knowledgeable about local weather change and what may be performed about it. Surveys of public opinion throughout Asia by the BBC’s “Media Motion” basis discovered that Bangladeshis are by far the area’s most educated on the problem. As a result of our media additionally report on local weather developments overseas, Bangladeshis know completely effectively, for instance, who Joe Manchin is. They adopted how Manchin sank president Joe Biden’s Construct Again Higher local weather laws and the way Manchin and Biden later agreed on the scaled-back Inflation Discount Act.

The distinction with the U.S. is stark. When American TV networks cowl the punishing warmth, drought, and storms afflicting a lot of the world today, they normally don’t point out that world warming fuels such excessive climate—an egregious oversight. When Hurricane Ian was bearing down on Florida, solely 4 p.c of U.S. nationwide TV networks’ preliminary protection even talked about local weather change.

Is it any shock, then, that the typical American is aware of so little about local weather change? Solely 39 p.c of Individuals know that the majority scientists agree that local weather change is going on right this moment, and solely 50 p.c know that it’s attributable to human actions, in response to surveys by the Yale Undertaking on Local weather Change Communication.

This lack of public understanding helps to perpetuate the political establishment. If extra Individuals voted like they understood the local weather emergency, the Republican occasion would both be swept from energy or should drop its lockstep opposition to taking severe motion.

I’m optimistic that U.S. information organizations will do higher. Protecting Local weather Now, a world collaboration of tons of of stories retailers dedicated to higher protection of local weather change, has helped newsrooms perceive that severe journalists merely can’t ignore the defining story of our time. Utilizing an method strikingly much like the one my fellow consultants and I employed in Bangladesh, the journalists who run Protecting Local weather Now present briefings and story concepts that assist newsrooms enhance their local weather protection. In addition they right the outdated impression that local weather protection turns audiences off, pointing to survey knowledge displaying that most individuals are involved about local weather change and wish motion taken, particularly by governments.

I’ve attended all 26 earlier UN local weather conferences, and at COP26, I seen a rise in U.S. media consideration: extra reporters and digital camera crews within the corridors, extra requests to interview me, extra articles by U.S. retailers in my every day world information summaries. Empirical evaluation confirmed my anecdotal impressions. Often a fierce critic of U.S. media protection, Media Issues gushed that “Morning and night information reveals on ABC, CBS, and NBC, in addition to PBS’ night information program NewsHour, aired a whopping 53 segments on local weather change … as the primary week of [COP26] bought underway.”

Now, U.S. information retailers should redouble their dedication. Humanity can’t defuse the local weather emergency with out far more formidable motion by the U.S., which continues to be the world’s greatest economic system, to not point out its largest historic supply of emissions. Extra and higher information protection doesn’t by itself assure victory, however it’s indispensable to our possibilities of reversing course earlier than it’s too late.

Huq is interviewed in “Burning Questions,” a one-hour TV particular produced by Protecting Local weather Now, out there beginning October 25 on public tv’s WORLD channel

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