While research on the verbal and written communication of climate change has proliferated, our understanding of how people interpret visual images of climate change is limited to a much smaller number of academic studies, which do not provide much in the way of practical guidance for communicators. As a result, the iconography of climate change has remained relatively static
The first Climate Visuals report Climate Visuals: Seven principles for visual climate change communication (based on international social research) summarises research with members of the public in three nations. The research combined two different methods. Four structured discussion groups (with a total of 32 citizens) were held: two in London, and two in Berlin. Participants responded to dozens of climate images, engaging in detailed discussions about what they saw. Following this in-depth research, an international online survey of 3,014 people was conducted, with participants split equally between the UK, Germany and the US. The survey allowed us to test a smaller number of images with a much larger number of people.
Further details on the methodology can be found in a separate appendix document.
The reports below expand on our 7 principles for visual climate change communication:
- show 'real people', not staged photo-ops
- tell new stories
- show climate causes at scale
- climate change impacts are emotionally powerful
- show local (but serious) climate impacts
- be very careful with protest imagery
- understand your audience
We have co-authored two academic articles related to the Climate Visuals project:
Chapman, A., Corner, A., Webster, R. and Markowitz E. (2016): Climate visuals: A mixed methods investigation of public perceptions of climate images in three countries, Global Environmental Change. 41, pp.172-182
Wang, S., Corner, A., Chapman, A., Markowitz, E. (2018): Public engagement with climate imagery in a changing digital landscape, Wires Climate Change
The second and third Climate Visuals reports contains an analysis of the key visual themes from the landmark UN climate conference in 2015 in Paris (COP21), and a comparison with the visual language of the following conference in Marrakech (COP22). Both reports provide concrete, tangible and practical suggestions for telling more compelling visual stories on climate change at the UN climate conferences and beyond.
Explore the Climate Visuals galleries, including a new gallery in partnership with leading outdoor photography agency Aurora Photos.
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.