NewsMedia and information literacy: A prerequisite for stimulating climate change engagement

Media and information literacy: A prerequisite for stimulating climate change engagement

(UNESCO). While the world combats the COVID-19 disinfodemic, another wave of climate-related disinformation that has existed for a long time should not be forgotten. Understanding the basic science of climate, one’s influence on the climate and climate’s influence on the society at large requires information, media and technological competencies. This is especially so in the digital age. Policy making, awareness raising and other levels of intervention against climate change cannot be done outside of the information and media spheres.

Media and information literacy (MIL) is an antecedent of science literacy. When MIL is combined with science literacy, they can empower ordinary citizens to contribute to the fight against climate change.

UNESCO has created a set of graphics providing knowledge and practical tips on fighting climate change in daily life trough MIL. The materials are centered around different topics, such as greenwashing, carbon footprint of the internet, and eco-messaging. View and download these resources here.

An individual’s online behaviours might seem trivial vis-à-vis global warming, whereas one same action undertaken by a million people can make a significant impact on the climate. According to ITU, at the end of 2019, over half of the world population was using the Internet. One could observe that the minuscule carbon footprint of one single email or internet search is no longer negligible when multiplied by billions. Unsubscribing from unwanted newsletters or stopping mobile applications from playing multimedia content automatically are simple gestures to prevent unnecessary greenhouse gas emissions. This may however not be evident to an average person.

The set of competencies to understand how climate change happens, its impacts, and relevant mitigation approaches are part of science literacy, often referred to as “climate literacy”. They are acquired and frequently applied by means of information, media and digital technology, and are thus intertwined with MIL competencies. Citizens who lack MIL competencies are prone to climate-related disinformation and unverified claims disseminated through various forms of online and offline media. This leads to a low level of acceptance of climate change science, and ignorance of the actions that we can all take individually and collectively. The uninformed rejection of climate change science, nowadays quite common in public discourse, is a major obstacle and can be tackled with MIL.

Media and technology companies play a central role in educating and informing citizens on climate change. Media outlets and information flow on digital communications platforms amplify the urgency of the crisis, communicate key facts about climate, and debunk climate change denial and other conspiracy theories. It is hence crucial for citizens to know how these news and online content are produced, for what purposes, and based on what sources. MIL is also vital for journalists to ensure factual and evidence-based reporting on climate.

Media and information literate citizens and decision-makers are able to access reliable information to make informed decisions as regards consumption and carbon footprint. They are able to adapt or change their attitudes and behaviours accordingly to avoid actions or policies that can exacerbate the crisis, based on accurate information and evidence. They are equipped to proactively counter climate change and contribute to strengthening public trust of climate change science.

Under the leadership of the European Youth Information and Counselling Agency, UNESCO supported the development of the Green Media and Information Literacy concept, which calls for:

  1. Raising awareness of the importance of checking facts related to environmental sustainability and paying attention to information sources;
  2. Providing people with the tools and resources needed to learn how to check sources of information, spot disinformation and spread information on the climate emergency in a responsible way;
  3. Encouraging people to get informed on the latest news, facts and research about the climate emergency and what can be done at different levels.

UNESCO has also developed the resource Media and Information Literacy in Journalism: A Handbook for Journalists and Journalism Educators. This tool offers guidelines for the development of internal MIL policies and strategies aimed at the systematic promotion of MIL by media, related training institutions, and digital communications platforms.

To learn more about UNESCO’s thematic area of Media and Information Literacy, visit:


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