Images of climate impacts attract attention and produce negative emotional responses from people: they show the effects of a changing climate, and the damage this can cause.
Previous research has suggested, though, that they can also make people feel powerless to act. The images of climate impacts we tested in our research confirmed that people have strong negative emotions towards them, but also points to ways of using climate impacts that do not produce feelings of hopelessness.
We also tested images which were more or less ‘distant’ for participants – geographically and psychologically. We found that images showing localised climate impacts are a powerful way of connecting with people. But there is a balance to be struck (as in verbal and written communication) between localising climate change, and trivialising the issue. When images of climate impacts show an individual person or group of people, with identifiable emotions, they are likely to be most powerful.
Global vs local…getting people’s attention vs scaring them away…this gallery contains images and guidance on how to navigate these tensions. As a general rule, try to couple fear or distress-inducing images of climate impacts with another image (or text) that shows a clear constructive response to the problem being depicted.