The role of media when reporting on climate change complexity in the Mediterranean

Date: 14 December 2021

The second TABADUL webinar took place on Monday 29th of November within the celebration of the First Mediterranean Day. The webinar focused on the interconnections between water, energy, food, and ecosystems- the so-called WEFE nexus, when reporting about climate change.

The webinar started with two short keynote speeches. The first one by Jihed Ghannem – public information officer at UNEP-MAP, who introduced some climate data and environmental degradation figures in the Mediterranean. The second keynote was held by Manfred A. Lange – professor at The Cyprus Institute, who delved into the WEFE nexus topic and gave some practical examples.

The webinar was followed by a panel composed by Aïda Delpuech – journalist at Inkyfada, Chantal Menard – communications specialist, Dania Al-Momani – member of Eco-Youth Jordan, and Lyse Mauvais – freelance journalist based in Jordan. The roundtable focused on the challenges faced when communicating about climate change and suggested tips and solutions on how to overcome them.

The Mediterranean, a hotspot region for climate change

Mediterranean countries are facing a set of complex and interrelated challenges that are increasing climate change vulnerability of the region. Jihed Ghannem, whom kicked off the session, stated it clearly:

“The Mediterranean region is in the throes of the triple crisis of pollution, biodiversity loss and climate change: around 730 tones of plastic waste arrive in the Mediterranean Sea every day, more than 220.000 people died prematurely due to air pollution in 2016, experts have recorded more than 1 thousand non-indigenous species in the Mediterranean Sea, crop productivity on the shores of the Mediterranean is expected to decrease by 20% in 2080, to name a few figures.”

Jihed Ghannem, public information officer, UNEP-MAP

Jihed also highlighted two important reports: The State of the Environment and Development in the Mediterranean, prepared under the Barcelona Convention and launched by UNEP/MAP in 2020, which directly analyzes the state of the environment and development in the region; and, The First Mediterranean Assessment Report (MAR1), prepared by the independent network of Mediterranean Experts on Climate and environmental Change (MedECC) and supported by UNEP/MAP, which assesses scientific knowledge on climate and environmental change and associated risks in the Mediterranean Basin.

Professor Manfred A. Langue, whom was as well one of the Coordinator Lead Authors of the First Mediterranean Assessment Report, jumped into the WEFE nexus concept. He referred to it as it follows:

“The WEFE stands for Water-Energy-Food-Ecosystems and therefore this concept really indicates commodities that are indispensable for life on our planet and it turns out that the secure provision of each of these commodities in the Mediterranean is at risk”.

Manfred A. Langue, professor at The Cyprus Institute

Manfed followed his explanation by saying that adopting such an approach enables a more holistic analysis of causal relationships between different items or issues as well as helps analyzing it through integrated management and governance across sectors and scales. He then tackled the WEFE nexus from a Mediterranean perspective and the conclusions went hand in hand to what Jihed Ghannem expressed earlier. Manfred added:

“Climate change in the Mediterranean has enhanced pressures on water, energy and food security by simultaneously threatening ecosystem health and integrity and biodiversity.”

Manfred A. Langue, professor at The Cyprus Institute

At the end of his presentation, Manfred commented on the role of the media when reporting about climate change. He concluded that media has a key role in communicating scientific findings more efficiently to the general public and that it is very relevant to communicate it through a nexus approach.

Barriers and challenges faced when reporting on climate change

The session moved into a more media focus when Chantal Menard, Lyse Mauvais, Dania Al-Momani and Aïda Delpuech took the floor and presented their fieldwork expertise. The panelists were asked several questions on the barriers faced when reporting about climate change and they also suggested some solutions to overcome it.

“One of the main challenges is having local impact when covering issues such as environmental topics, pollution, loss of ecosystems and social impacts. It is difficult to bring those things related to the environment to the daily discussions and have an impact into the more structural and official level.”

Aïda Delpuech, journalist at INKYFADA

“As a freelance I have quite a lot of challenges. In terms of climate change, I found that there is a lack of space both at the local and at the international media. For example, in Syria, most of the media space is used for political uses even though the country is shrinking, in terms of climate impact”. 

Lyse Mauvais, freelance journalist based in Jordan

“Everyone of us can help to limit climate change impacts and take care of our planet. But it is also important to give a role to the youth and encourage them to participate at a local and at a global decision level”.

Dania Al-Momani, member of Eco-Youth Jordan

 “We are in a very challenging time and the way we talk about climate change is through reports and a scientific numbers and information. (…) Climate change is touching every single person, every single day. And as far as communication is concerned, I think that more than ever, we need to be very creative”.

Chantal Menard, communications specialist

Solutions to write effective and impactful climate change stories

“We should explain climate change through art as it is more creative but also more efficient. Our role as youth is to promote awareness with environmental and climate education and empowering youth to meet tomorrow’s challenges.”

Dania Al-Momani, member of Eco-Youth Jordan

“We need to give people data and facts by using infographic or data visualization. It is also a good way to bring the same information instead of long reports that very few people read.”

Aïda Delpuech, journalist at INKYFADA

 “We need also to keep talking to decision makers and politicians and involve them, take them to the ground, to the field and show them the reality of what people is living. Explain the story from the ground.

Chantal Menard, communications specialist

We do not have to propose an article from an environmental focus but rather, write an article about security or military operationalization that does not seem directly connected to the environment. And here, is where the WEFE nexus comes into play. Instead of saying there was a bombing which caused several deaths, explain as well those people who are going to be displaced and at the same time who are going to lose their agricultural land and talk about the food security issues they will later on face. Sometimes, we do not have the space to write about environmental issues but we can put an environmental focus on other articles since there are many things interrelated.”

Lyse Mauvais, freelance journalist based in Jordan

The session was concluded by Marta Castillo and Patricia Carbonell, from the AMWAJ team, and whom moderated the whole session. The second TABADUL on ‘Reporting on climate change complexity in the Mediterranean region’ allowed the participants to exchange knowledge on communication best practices when it comes to climate change reporting and connect inspiring professionals to share their expertise on the subject.

The Day of the Mediterranean provided an opportunity to celebrate achievements, embrace diversity, strengthen ties between our two shores and to keep looking to the future and its challenges from a more united way.

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