Just how far above sea level is the land on small Pacific islands and atolls? That was one of the intriguing questions raised by a scientist at the recent 4th ABU Media Summit on Climate Change and Disaster Risk Reduction held in Nadi, Fiji.
Dr Ben Strauss, Vice-President for Sea Level and Climate Change Impacts at the Climate Central organisation in the USA, said that most Pacific islands had not been mapped accurately for elevation. He noted that the majority of current calculations of the sea level of Pacific islands (especially in particularly remote areas) had been made from satellite data. However, this data might often not be accurately analysed, as satellite pictures accessed by scientists and geographers could be distorted by tree tops (such as tall coconut palms), hills and small mountains which may be covered in large areas of vegetation.
In a session devoted to the communication of scientific data by broadcasting organisations to their radio and TV audiences, Mr Ravind Kumar, Director of Meteorology of the Fiji Government, Mr Matthew Park, CEO of EMTV in Papua New Guinea, and Ms Tantri Relatami of the Board of Supervisors, Radio Republik Indonesia, all provided practical examples of how their institutions made available understandable and vital scientific information to their listeners and viewers.
Session speaker, Dr Gretchen Kalonji, former UNESCO Assistant Director- General for Natural Sciences and now Dean of the Sichuan University- Hong Kong Polytechnic University Institute for Disaster Management and Reconstruction in China, called for more positive collaboration between university schools of journalism and science departments. She said that this would better enable people from both bodies to understand how best to simplify complex messages and more accurately communicate scientific information on climate change and disaster risk reduction.
Dr Kalonji reminded the conference that journalists and scientists have the same professional ethos, namely “to uncover the truth and reject falsehood”.