Helsinki - Ochieng Ogodo, the Regional Coordinator Sub-Saharan Africa English, SciDev.Net, an online media, said that the sustainability of economies in African countries was threatened by climate change.
Ogodo made the observation while making a presentation at the ongoing 8th World Conference of Science Newsmen on Thursday in Finland.
Ogodo said that countries at the region were vulnerable to climate change since they relied heavily on rain-fed agriculture and pastoralism.
"For instance in East Africa, changes to weather patterns with less reliable rainfall, unpredictable storms and floods occurring with alarming frequency is the manifestation of this.
"Recurrent prolonged droughts is affecting agricultural and livestock output significantly
"The upshot of this is that livelihoods are at risk. Climate change impacts are thus likely to cause enormous social and economic upheavals in Africa," he said.
Ogodo, however, said that the media in Africa had a critical role in shaping public opinion, perceptions and guiding public debates on such important subjects through information dissemination.
He said that although there had been improvements in the media coverage of climate change in Africa over the past few years, the coverage ``still falls short of expectations in terms of positioning, quality and quantity.''
He linked the shortfalls to conceptual challenges around the scientific consensus debate and structural challenges linked to scarcity of well documented editorial policy framework within media organisations in Africa.
He also identified capacity deficit within newsrooms and relegation of environmental news to the back burner were challenges facing reporting of climate change in the region.
Other challenges were limited understanding of issues around mitigation and adaptation, difficulties associated with accessing information and limited knowledge of the science of climate change in Africa, he said.
Ogodo, however, advised that the media in the region to help refocus public discourse and policy attention on climate change through demystifies the phenomenon and diminishing of its perceived abstractness.
He said this could be done through re-framing climate change news agenda to incorporate impacts as well as the causal links.
"It could be done by putting it as an immediate risk management issue and allowing the vulnerable to be active participants in the evolving human story.
"There is greater story in its disastrous impact on humanity and the environment. The story is beyond the scientific presentation of climate change and global warming but it gets lost in translation.
"Newsmen have a major role to play in informing the people about climate and its related impacts.
"There is an urgent need to address the challenges outlined above including bridging the communication and knowledge gaps in the climate change news agenda in Africa by the media," he said.