Climate change conference stresses need for prompt collective action, proactive role of media


addressing the conference

JAK President Kim Dong Hoo addressing the conference (Photo: WJC2021)

By Habib Toumi

MANAMA: An international media conference in the Korean capital Seoul has warned that the threats associated with climate change are so ominous that inaction to take collective action would have a high cost for humanity.

Participants at the World Journalists Conference 2021, an annual event hosted by the Journalists Association of Korea (JAK), said that collective action was crucial and must no longer be procrastinated or undermined by narrow political or business interests or lack of awareness.

Millions of people are at risk in Central Asia due to climate change, Kubanychbek Taabaldiev, the Director General of Kabar News Agency, Kyrgyzstan, warned in his presentation about the impact of climate change on Central Asia.

“The decrease in water inflow in the summer is a matter of concern for the authorities of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan,” he said,

“If 15-20 years ago Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan were considered exporting countries of electricity, now, due to a lack of water in the winter, both countries are forced to buy electricity from their neighbors. This is only one of the numerous consequences of climate change in the region.”

Taabaldiev warned that “more than 10 million people live in the dangerous mudflow zones of Central Asia, and climate change, causing the accelerated melting of glaciers, leads to increased risks of mudflows down to the plains, where the bulk of the population lives.”

JAK President Kim Dong Hoo addressing the conference

Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun stresses that the role of the media lies in the truth (Photo: WJC2021)

Dr. Hassan Humeida, from the University of Kiel, Germany, stressed that destruction of the earth’s layers in search of mineral resources has restricted more and more habitats for various organisms.

“We need not be surprised when the first signs of climate change result in the form of global warming, glacier melt, rising sea levels and flooding,” he said.

“Extreme heat and forest fires occur regularly in various regions on earth, where billions of living beings are at threat. Desertification and water shortages render many regions uninhabitable for living beings. In addition, and in consequence, insect infestations and plagues destroy important green belts, leading to extreme hunger and poverty.”

The problem is exacerbated by an increase in the world’s population by 2050, when 9.63 billion people are expected to live on Earth, all of whom will need space to live, eat, drink and move around, he said.

“Climate change is hitting the poor and marginalized groups of people particularly hard. Here, the working population as daily wage earners in agriculture, animal husbandry and fisheries are primarily threatened.”

Action to help address the global challenge could include allocating a specific daily time slot where each country covers news on climate change, so that the global population always receives up to date information.

“This event, tentatively called ‘The Global Moment’ for one planet, will help raise attention to the fact that climate change can only be solved if the world unites,” he said.

Habib Toumi

Habib Toumi says that media, strengthened by literacy, has pivotal role in fighting climate change

In his presentation “Climate Change and Media: Fighting disinformation in post-truth era”, Habib Toumi, media advisor in Bahrain, stressed the role of the media in engaging the public, policy makers and businesses in order to ensure that no one is left behind in terms of awareness, understanding and action.

Such monumental tasks require strengthening the literacy of journalists to report on climate change, he said.

“The fight against climate change is won or lost in the media – Newspapers, TV, radio, the internet, mobile phones …,” he said.

“The media should lead the fight against lack of information, misinformation, disinformation and mal-information. We can all see their impact in the post-truth era. We have been suffering from their tsunami effects in the COVID-19 pandemic.”

However, he stressed that the media should know how to formulate and present the necessary messages and the required discourses.

Communicating about climate change is not like writing a news story as journalists must not apply the same rules or norms, he said.

“The media should make the complex data and difficult language used by scientists easier to understand, so that people can relate. At the same time, the media should engage with policy makers and businesses. Journalists should empower themselves and develop the capabilities to demonstrate that fighting climate change is a winning message and that it can create jobs and save lives and livelihoods. They should promote the necessary actions from policy makers, businesses and the public to find local solutions to protect or build green economies.”

At a special

Around 60 journalists from 50 countries teamed up at the WJC2021 to discuss over two days online and in-person the role of journalism in the post-COVID era and in global climate issues.

The annual media event has been held by the Journalists Association of Korea without interruption since 2013, addressing various themes related to media choices, outlooks and strategies regarding prominent global issues.


Deborah Blum, director of the Knight Science journalism program at MIT, talks about “What We Learned about Science Journalism in the Year of Covid 19” (Photo: WJC2021)

At a special session with the Samsung Press Foundation, Deborah Blum, director of the Knight Science journalism program at MIT, talks about “What We Learned about Science Journalism in the Year of Covid 19” (Photo: WJC2021). Blum took questions from both the moderator, Jean Yoon, Professor at Korea University, and from the audience, resulting a in a rich debate that covered a wide spectrum of issues, including ethics and equity in coverage.

In his keynote speech to the conference, Korea’s Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun stressed that the value of journalism has become “much more invaluable in a new world where anyone can easily produce, distribute and consume information thanks to the development of digital technology and people’s thirst for the truth becomes more unquenchable.”

“In this new world, I think the role of the media lies in the truth. I believe that when the media sheds light on the world through truthful communication and balanced perspectives, its role as a mirror and window will truly shine,” Chung Sye-kyun said.

“COVID-19 has been bringing about huge change across the world in the most painful way. The pace of change has accelerated and its range has greatly expanded. Indeed, an era of great transformation with maximized uncertainty has dawned. Climate change is the very issue where such changes and uncertainties are concentrated.”

He stressed that the problem can never be solved by the efforts of any single country alone.

“Based on solidarity and cooperation, all countries should put heads together across national borders in order to find solutions. In this regard, this conference, which is to seek the role of the media in addressing climate issues, is truly meaningful and valuable.”

JAK President Kim Dong Hoo said that the aim of selecting the theme ‘Global Climate Issues’ was “to devise together solutions and respond to the climate problem, which is closely connected with various fields, including society, environment, and life worldwide.”

Established in 1964, the Journalists Association of Korea is Korea’s largest organization of journalists. It is celebrating its 57th anniversary this year and has about 11,000 members from 195 media companies nationwide participating and engaging in its activities.

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