Images Matter in Climate Change Awareness

Posted on 01.02.2013

Researchers in the US, Australia and the UK have been looking at how different pictures used to illustrate articles on climate change influence people’s perception of climate change, it urgency, and their agency in terms of doing something to stop it.

They grouped image into three categories: images of the visible impact of climate change, images of new energy sources, like solar panels, and images of celebrities and politicians campaigning or otherwise lending their influence to climate change initiatives.

Images of the visible impact of climate change – scorched earth, hurricanes, polar bears stranded on diminishing icebergs – made people think that climate change was important, but that the situation was beyond their control .

Images of progress in renewable energy – solar panels, wind farms, etc – had a more positive impact, as people feel encouraged with the knowledge that there are measures they can take to make a change.

And lastly, images of politicians or celebrities promoting a climate change platform or attending events meant to raise awareness of global warming had a very negative impact, leaving people with the impression that climate change was unimportant. There didn’t seem to be much difference in whether the person portrayed was a politician or just an entertainer.

Through artists working with scientists and creating their own images; visible and invisible, Invisible Dust aims to spark new ideas about climate change and inspire people to think about and engage with our environment.

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