Although many individual behaviours – such as eating meat, or driving a car – contribute to climate change, our research found that people did not easily connect images illustrating these behaviours with climate change, and may react negatively to the insinuation that they are to ‘blame’ for climate change. People tend to consider images of industrial pollution and environmental destruction as more accurate depictions of the causes of climate change. Even though these causes are quite remote from people’s everyday lives, our research found that they were more likely to produce a desire to make positive changes in participants own behaviour (compared to images showing more individualised actions).
Images that clearly show the industrial-scale causes of climate change are likely to be better than images which over-individualise the problem. Connecting climate change to people’s lives is crucial, but implying that individual behaviours are mostly to blame is likely to be counter-productive. If using an image that focuses on ‘people’ rather than ‘industry’, select one that shows the problematic behaviour at scale (i.e. many different individuals at once) rather than one singled-out individual.