Can scientists work together with the media on climate change reporting

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From MASEMBE TAMBWE in Kampala, 1st June 2010 @ 12:00, Total Comments: 0, Hits: 256

SCIENTISTS and the media fraternity in Africa have been called upon to put behind their personal and professional egos and work together against effects of climate change for the survival of the continent.

“Africa is being hit by the impact of climate change the hardest and the calamity doesn’t affect the poor only but the entire mankind. Scientists and journalists need to work together closely for the welfare of our communities,” the Uganda Assistant Commissioner for Meteorology, Mr Michael Nkalubo, said.

Climate change is a change in the statistical distribution of weather over periods of time that range from decades to millions of years. Mr Nkalubo who was opening the Africa Climate Change Communication Conference in Kampala on Monday said that lack of awareness among many people was the biggest challenge of climate change and that the media needed to be informed to avert this shortcoming.

He said that it was important for the climate experts to constantly update the media and that a feedback mechanism should be in place such that an evaluation can be made in knowing the degree of understanding.

“Double efforts have to be put in place to ensure the gap that exists between the media and scientists is quickly bridged and that the information reaches the end users as quickly as possible,” he said.

Mr Nkalubo revealed that recently the East African Community member countries endorsed a climate change initiative where they identified that adaptation to the continental hazard was a priority and that a strategy of using media was agreed upon.

The Head of the Department of Geography in Makerere University and President of the Uganda Meteorology Department, Prof Peter Basalirwa, said that adaptation and mitigation of climate change cannot take place as long as media mix up weather and climate change.

“It saddens me greatly to see that journalists in Uganda and other parts of Africa have jumped on the bandwagon of this climate monster, yet they don’t know what they are talking about,” he said.

Prof Basalirwa explained that of recent whenever flooding or drought take place, journalists rush to naming it climate change, yet it could simply be adverse weather conditions that have caused it.

The Chairman of the Kenya Meteorology Society, Prof John Muthama, concurred with the need for the media to be more knowledgeable and aired that meteorological agencies in many African countries are failing to effectively reach the end users because they are ill packaged.

“Many of the Met agencies are heavily challenged with inadequate funding as they require big budgets because they need constant monitoring of weather,” he said.

Prof Muthama explained that weather reports on foreign television stations are viewed because they use animation to represent their data and people are drawn to this and also the funding is sufficient.

Over 75 journalists and scientists are meeting in Kampala for the first ever journalist climate change conference for four days with the intention of creating a home grown solution to a common problem of climate change communication.

“The major objective of this conference is to create a critical mass of well trained journalists in Africa by improving their capacity to cover climate change issues more accurately and effectively. Journalists will also be introduced to climate change journalism,” said Patrick Luganda, the chairman, Network of Climate Journalists of the Greater Horn of Africa (NECJOGHA).