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A survey of four developing countries says their media have a poor understanding of climate change, and place a low priority on reporting it.

Yet, the effects of climate change will be most severely felt in such nations.

Panos London says its survey, published last week (1 March), shows that the media, policymakers and scientists must encourage an "urgently needed" public discussion of the issues.

Panos interviewed 47 journalists in Honduras, Jamaica, Sri Lanka and Zambia. All said climate change is rarely covered in their national print and broadcast media.

This, they said, is because editors and the general public have a poor understanding of science, and because governments give climate change a low priority.

Of Zambia, the report says: "The little reportage that appears barely scratches the surface, and lacks in-depth analysis of what climate change is, what its effects are, and the available strategies to cope with them."

Most of the journalists said they thought climate change is a reality. But many incorrectly linked it to factors such as ozone layer depletion and acid rain, instead of rising concentrations of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

They said they lacked access to clear, accurate information about climate change, and that scientific jargon makes reporting difficult. This was especially true for reporters who do not speak English.

The report urges policymakers to fund training for both journalists and editors that will increase their understanding of climate change and the role the media can play in fostering public debate on the issue.

It also says that raising awareness of climate change will require "constant interaction" between researchers, policymakers, the media and those affected by it.

Link to full report