Narratives of climate change

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A journey between journalism, data visualization, video games and infographics, to build a narrative on climate change which is accurate and at the same time engaging for the public. The CMCC event at the International Journalism Festival in Perugia, with an outstanding panel in the climate communication arena.

Numbers alone are not enough. We need narratives to communicate climate change to audiences in a way that makes data easy to grasp and, at the same time, balancing scientific accuracy and accessibility, exploring paths to connect the scientific community and the world of journalism.

Saturday April 9, at the Sala della Vaccara at Palazzo dei Priori in Perugia, at the International Journalism Festival, Mauro Buonocore, head of the Communication and Media Office at the CMCC Foundation, had a conversation with the communication experts Angela Morelli, CEO and cofounder of InfoDesignLab, Jelena Prtoric, freelance journalist, and Meera Selva, Deputy Director of the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism.

The panel dived into an in-depth conversation about forms and languages to tell what climate change is and why it affects us all, from policymaking to everyday life.
How to interpret the word ‘narrative’ when communicating an issue as complex as climate change across different perspectives, professionalities, and sectors? To answer this question the panelists selected some keywords particularly significant to them.

Angela Morelli, picking the word journey and discussing the role of data visualization as a powerful communication tool, has explained how “data visualizations can be seen as a journey we design for the audience. […] We guide the user through this journey on how they process the information, understand it or they are empowered to make informed decisions or they are moved to action, which is probably the most important but also the most difficult thing.”

When asked which word is representative of her idea of narrative, Meera Selva chose diversity. Discussing the Oxford Climate Journalism Network which she is now managing, she said: “The idea is to rethink how we look at the issue of climate change in the newsroom […]: who is telling the story on climate change, how it has been framed, whose perspective has been centered. Countries in the global south are the future, they are feeling the impact now.”

Narrative has to be built around two intertwined ideas, says Jelena Prtoric, to question and to explain. A data and investigative journalist, she stresses how in her job “it’s more about questioning what’s out there and, if there is a promise like, for example, the European Green Deal, what’s actually behind it, how has it been implemented, […] who is influencing that discussion.”

“My word for narrative is systemic,” adds Buonocore “[…] because at CMCC we carry on very multidisciplinary research. We cover all the chain of the research on climate change, from models to impacts and risk assessment and in different fields. I think we do need to look at the full picture, you can’t stay only in one sector, you really need to look at interactions and systems

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