Every day, thousands of images of climate change are shared around the world.
But despite the energy and resources dedicated to communication and campaigning on climate change, an understanding of how to effectively engage people using visual images is much more limited. As a result, an easily-recognisable climate change iconography has taken root over the past 25 years: polar bears, melting ice-caps, smokestacks and (as our research shows) potentially polarising images of environmental protesters. This narrow visual vocabulary undermines the effectiveness of campaign messages, is a barrier to personal behavioural engagement, and detracts from the reach and value of journalistic reporting on climate change. A more compelling and diverse visual language for climate change is urgently required.
To address this Climate Outreach created climatevisuals.org, a pioneering evidence-based resource for visual climate change communication. Based on international social research in Europe and the US, this unique resource offers seven core principles for effective visual communication, plus an initial library of images. The project has already fostered a global network of website users, and the Climate Visuals resource informed and influenced campaigners at COP22 in Marrakech.
Now, Climate Visuals aims to strategically change the working practices of influential visual communicators across the world, to catalyse a new - more compelling and diverse - visual language for climate change.
The website contains a growing, library of photographs to provide inspiration and guidance for campaigners, picture editors and communications practitioners selecting imagery for communicating climate change. All images are categorised to reflect the different aims communicators may have and are captioned with an explanation of why they were chosen. Each image is linked to its original source and many are available to download for free under Creative Commons licenses for use in blogs, articles and campaigns.