“Climate Change is like some feet that creeps on a family in the dead of the night and wraps around the members entangling them in ways in which they cannot free themselves. Climate change events have become so complex and uncertain that the developed nations are at loss as to how to predict related events. Climate change is now an issue for survival as it threatens the survival of our world.”
Those were the vivid words of UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy on Climate Change, President John Agyekum Kuffour during the African regional launch in Accra, Ghana of the “Guidebook for Journalists on Climate Change in Africa held May 20th, 2014.
The erstwhile Ghanaian leader, who has taken up a new assignment since December to give a political touch to the on-going global efforts to address climate change, lamented the scourge in his home country.
His words: “Climate change is essentially a rebound of nature on us. In Ghana, our problem is the indescribable destruction of our forests. We did not intend evil; but in our ignorance we thought we were just making money. Now, our forests are drastically reduced and we need to quickly step up our afforestation efforts. Afforestation should be given priority attention in this country.
“Accra is now congested because the city that was created for one million people 20 years ago, is now inhabited by over seven million people and this is creating all kinds of climate change-related problems. Agriculture is suffering because of unpredictable rains these days. Farmers can no longer tell the right time to plant like they used to do some years back. Indeed, climate change is devastating countries and changing lifestyles.”
Stressing that “everybody is at risk and so everybody must be educated,” he described the media as a major disseminator of information with a major role to play in the education drive. He wants every aspect of the media – radio, television, newspapers, on-line, drama – engaged to spread the news about climate change.
“The media’s contribution will be to send out the message in ways that policy makers and politicians will appreciate the issues at stake and give climate change appropriate attention. We need to exploit natural resources in a responsible manner – we must pump oil responsibly and flare gas responsibly because of their implications for climate change. We need to explore green and sustainable sources of livelihood that can make our economies vibrant. I urge the media to use the Guidebook on Climate Change in Africa like a Bible.”
UN Resident Coordinator in Ghana, Susan Namondo Ngongi, warned that, if not addressed, the impacts of climate change would be magnified by underlying conditions of governance, poverty and resource management as well as the nature of impact at local and regional levels.
To respond, proactive efforts at all levels and by all stakeholders are required to lessen the harm of climate change impact and its effects on society and the environment, she added.
“There is urgent need for policy, economic and social oriented actions to address this problem. Important policy related instruments include the integrated policies which include climate change as a factor in broader policy development to facilitate implementation of mitigation mechanisms, regulatory standards that provide certainty and consistency on emissions levels, and send a clear signal that discourages a ‘business as usual’ approach,” Ngongi declared.
Minister for Education and Chairman of the Ghana National Commission for UNESCO, Prof. Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang, declared that climate change is upon the world and “we need global solutions, even though each country, regardless its status has role to play. Therefore transmission of accurate information is critical.”
She said: “The climate affects all life: human, animal, plan, water and more. It also affects culture and ways of seeing, since certainties would have shifted. But in this challenge there might also be opportunities for innovation and adaptability.
“In view of the above, ladies and gentlemen, progress is needed on many fronts especially for Africa: the development and transfer of green technologies; greenhouse gas emission reduction and the establishment and implementation of effective government policies. It is of equal importance to provide education and training and promote public awareness to the broadest audience possible with the right information. The need to create and inform global citizenry on their roles in climate change mitigation and adaptation is immediate.”
President, Ghana Journalists Association (GJA), Dr Affail Monney, believes that the most critical need of journalists now is neither the fattest pay cheque, a swanky car, nor a palatial home, but capacity building. According to him, the perpetration of mediocrity and other professional diseases can be best cured through capacity building.
“The Guidebook on Climate Change in Africa has therefore come at the right time not only to help capacitate journalists but also to expand the scope of coverage and improve the quality of stories on climate change,” he stated, adding that journalists of this generation have a responsibility imposed by destiny to deepen their understanding of issues on the environment and help contain the ravages of the weather as a result of environmental abuse and bankruptcy.
He said, “The Bible, which to believers is a perennial spring of wisdom and infallible guide, teaches us in Mathew 15:14 that if a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit. Never should journalists of today be accused of professional blindness due to ignorance, misreporting or under reporting the environment. Rather, journalists must be on top of issues and as a professional bible internalise and reflect the guidelines in their reports, analyses, features, commentaries and documentaries to justify the investment made in publishing them.
“The GJA thanks UNESCO, the International Institute for the Environment and Development (IIED) as well as the Earth Journalists Network (EJN) for their role to train journalists. The GJA is eternally grateful for this guidebook of professional quality and inestimable value.”