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Campaign stresses need for all segments of society to recognize danger of climate change

Published on 23 June 2014 Thailand

Climate change is becoming an increasingly relevant issue for Thais after the country was hit by a series of droughts and floods. As part of the "Redraw the Line" campaign, non-profit organisation Media Alliance conducted a seminar to stress the importance of the media in raising awareness on climate change.

While the campaign is focused on encouraging people to change their behaviour to reduce their carbon footprint, the group said the press and advertising companies were vital in changing people's habits and creating a pro-environment trend.

Robert Mather, head of the Southeast Asia Group for the International Union for Conservation of Nature, said climate change was an immediate problem.

He said that at the current rate of energy consumption, the average temperature was expected to rise in Thailand and there would be more concentrated periods of rain, which could cause floods, in the near future.

The Media Alliance said news outlets and advertising companies had to deal with the challenge of how to get this message across to a Thai audience.

"Climate change is thought of as boring, since its immediate effects are not seen," said Thepchai Yong, executive director of Nation Multimedia Group.

To make climate change more accessible and engaging, Thepchai quoted famed American environmentalist Bill McKibben as saying the media must "humanise news about climate change".

In other words, the media have to shift the perspective of climate change from being a field dedicated to scientists and experts to something that is relevant to everyone.

Dr Chareumchai Yodmalai, deputy secretary-general of the National Press Council of Thailand, pointed out that the reporters themselves sometimes lacked a scientific understanding of climate change. "We need reporters who understand the science behind climate change so they can report on it clearly."

Thepchai added that the government must play a role in creating environmental policies as well.

"One more thing that the Thai media are not doing enough of is we are not putting enough pressure on the government for it to start coping and adapting to climate change. I've never seen a reporter ask the prime minister about the policy for climate change," he said.

But with the advent of digital TV, both Thepchai and Chareumchai are optimistic that the emerging news channels will provide a more extensive coverage of the issue.

The advertising and entertainment sectors are also important in raising awareness, with celebrities, films and commercial brands promoting the importance of conserving the environment.

Niwat Rungruangworawat, group business director of Ogilvy & Mather Advertising, said advertising alone could not spark an environmentalist trend, since some advertisements that treat climate change as an existential threat could become stressful, causing people to reject the message.

Instead, what is needed is an integration of different areas of the media to start changes that have an impact, Niwat said.

Source: The Nation | 17 May 2014