Climate Visuals: Towards a new visual language for climate change: An evidence-based Briefing for COP22 and beyond.
Source: Climate Outreach
Author(s): Adam Corner
Despite the energy and resources our community dedicates to communication strategies for written and spoken campaign materials, the amount of research on how to effectively engage people using visual images of climate change is much more limited. As a result, an easily-recognisable climate change iconography has taken root over the past 25 years. This narrow visual vocabulary still determines climate change in the public mind: polar bears, melting ice-caps, smokestacks and – as the results of the new Climate Visuals (climatevisuals.org) research project show – potentially polarising images of environmental protesters. This can undermine the effectiveness of campaign messages, and detract from the reach and value of journalistic reporting on climate change.
This Briefing is a response to this challenging situation.
Our analysis of images from COP21 found that imagery fell largely into two categories: staged protests outside of the COP and politicians/negotiators at work inside the COP. There are some structural reasons why the visual vocabulary on climate change is so stunted: at key moments in the climate calendar, such as the COPs, a predictable pattern plays out that almost guarantees that the cycle of visual communication will repeat itself. Activists often make visual choices primarily to engage their memberships (which may not be very representative of the wider population in terms of what ‘works’ for them). Journalists and photographers fight against the complexity – and sometimes abstractness – of climate change, and often opt for literal documentation of the inherently ‘dry’ process of technocrats negotiating. The limited range of climate images in many stock photography collections re ects these ‘upstream’ restrictions. And as a result, major events such as the annual COP do not generally engage the wider public in the way they potentially could.
Talk.Eco encourages readers to visit the Climate Visuals site to fully explore the principles in this guide.
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