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The seven Climate Visuals principles

Photo credit: Greg Kahn/Getty Images Climate Visuals Grant recipient

The evidence behind Climate Visuals

Climate Visuals is based on international social research: seven core principles to catalyse a new visual language for climate change


Read about the research

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 the separate appendix document below.

Visualising Climate Change 2020 Hackathon

In January 2020, Climate Visuals and Saffron O’Neill, Associate Professor in Geography at Exeter University, organised the ‘Visualising Climate Change 2020 Hackathon’ to critically update and expand the evidence base for how to effectively communicate climate change through imagery. 

Together we convened  a dozen academics specialising in climate change imagery as well as industry professionals from both Getty Images and the World Press Photo Foundation. The original 7 Climate Visuals principles were critically tested and scrutinised but reassuringly, came away unscathed as an accessible and robust guide to editing and commissioning Climate imagery for 2020. 

The Air That We Breathe:  

How imagery of air pollution can communicate the health impacts of climate change:

Executive Summary

  • New survey research - the first of its kind - reveals how the UK public engages with imagery communicating the health impacts of climate change (and the health benefits of low carbon measures).
  • Images showing air pollution (compared to images of floods, heat stress, and infectious disease) were found to be more effective for visually communicating the health impacts of climate change: the health consequences of climate impacts other than air pollution are not yet visually salient in the public mind.
  • While it is crucial to help audiences join the dots between the range of climate impacts and public health - from flooding to heat stress -  this survey suggests that information and imagery focusing on air quality could be particularly engaging for UK audiences at present.  

Visual communication on the health impacts of climate change should therefore:

  • Build on the salience of air pollution as an issue with links to climate change to create a visual narrative of climate impacts that is people-focused and relatable and which introduces the link between health and other climate impacts.  
  • Be clear about the ways in which air quality can be linked to climate change, for example when rising summer temperatures create air pollution hotspots in urban centres.  
  • Lead with images that are likely to convey people’s vulnerability and susceptibility to the health risks of climate change.
  • Combine these health-impact images with solutions-focused photos that build a sense of ‘efficacy’, and highlight positive social norms (around people taking relevant climate actions).

COP 21 and COP 22

The second and third Climate Visuals reports contain 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.

Additional Climate Visual Co-Authored Papers

We have also 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