‘Stop misinformation’: UN issues media guidance for climate
The United Nations, in consultation with the Conscious Advertising Network and other environmental bodies, has released a number of tips for media organizations to communicate on the topic of climate change.
The recommendations and tips are summarized below:
Use authoritative scientific information
- Check your sources: make sure facts and figures come from reliable, science-based and objective sources. The UN recommends citing peer-reviewed articles where possible.
- Stop misinformation: spend time fact-checking, and rebut misinformation using the ‘Fact, Myth, Fallacy’ model.
- Beware of greenwashing: double check what a company is really doing to reduce their carbon footprint and deliver on their climate promises, and only promote genuinely sustainable brands that meet certain minimum criteria. When taking on work that is financially rewarding, be careful to challenge the assignment to make sure it promotes sustainable behaviours.
- Use trusted messengers: established media outlets may already be trusted sources of information, but any new messengers must also be trusted. Consider respected scientists, weather presenters, and medical doctors for new messengers, but don’t be afraid to seek out “people like me” who have been affected by climate events.
Convey the problem and the solutions
- Tell a story—make it real: presenting data alone can numb audiences; make stories relatable, local, and personal.
- Empower people: let people know they have the power to effect change, and direct them how to do so where appropriate.
- Link it to justice: the poor and marginalized are often hit hardest by increasing climate hazards; create opportunities to tell social stories, not just scientific ones.
- Avoid stereotypes: Poorer countries and underserved communities, including indigenous peoples who have protected the environment for generations, are often portrayed solely as victims of climate change, rather than positive agents of change. The same is often the case for women and girls. Make sure to highlight the voices, expertise, innovations, positive action, and solutions by people from all walks of life and communities from all parts of the world.
- Convey urgency: make it about now. Many misinformation narratives about climate change present the issue as one that is only necessary to address in the future. Reject and refute those narratives and focus on what must be done today.
- Focus on the opportunities: get your audience excited about the prospects of a sustainable world. Green jobs, cleaner air, renewable energy, food security, liveable coastlines, and better health are all benefits of a cleaner environment. Reframing the issue to focus on the positives can galvanize action.
- Make it relevant: meet people where they are. Avoid technical jargon. Limiting global warming to 1.5°C, for example, can be hard for people to relate to. Frame the issue in a way that will resonate with your local audience, by linking it to shared values like family, nature, community, and religion.
- Engage youth: Featuring voices of youth will make your content more relatable to young people and get more youth involved in demanding change. But avoid presenting climate change as a problem only for future generations. It is hitting hard right now, and action is needed right now.