By Dararat Weerapong, Senior Communications Officer, Southeast Asia Group, IUCN Asia.

“We know that climate change is important but the topic itself is so hard to understand,” a Thai journalist mentioned to me when we talked over dinner about media coverage of climate change.Photo by Taco Anema

This is not the first time I’ve heard something like this. Similar statements are made by journalists in Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar and Viet Nam. In this Mekong region, our journalists realize that their audiences want to know more about it so they can’t avoid covering the topic. Still, understanding this technical and complex issue is not easy. Although there are more climate change documents available now in local languages, most of the key ones are still in English. Besides, there is only a handful of experts available to give media interviews.

Media participation is an important part of IUCN’s Building Coastal Resilience to Climate Change Impacts in Coastal Southeast Asia project. Journalists from Cambodia, Thailand and Viet Nam were invited to the first Coastal Forum which was held in Chanthaburi, Thailand. They learned more about the issues from researchers, asked questions to policy maker representatives, investigated changes that are happening on the ground through coastal community visits, and talked to local people. Hands on experiences create a better understanding of climate change and many technical terms were described by giving real examples. Adding human faces to science makes it easier to communicate about climate change. All of the journalist participants reported about the Forum in their media outlets.

A higher level of curiosity and clear change of perception was seen among the journalists participating.

“Climate change will not be something unreachable anymore. It’s already here and it has something to do with me”, said Ornrawee Tangmeesang, ASEAN TV.