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Climate Visuals – A Great Carbon Literacy Resource

September 2017 by Joe Dodd

Image credit: Photo by Natalie Dmay

Climate Change suffers from an image problem.

The iconic image of a polar bear floating on a piece of ice in the Arctic has failed to inspire and engage. And yet, images remain a powerful and essential tool of climate change communication. Images can effectively convey complex and multi-layered ideas.

Classic images associated with the climate movement have failed to inspire action


Images have a central role to play in delivering Carbon Literacy.

“How are changes in the climate likely to affect us?” is powerfully answered with images of flooding after Hurricane Sandy (and now Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria). Communities in Bhutan installing solar panels is an encouraging response to, “what can we do to reduce our impact?” and “how can we improve quality of life alongside reducing global carbon emissions?”

Stranded Ambulance during Superstorm Sandy. Hoboken, New Jersey, USA. By Alec Perkins CC BY 2.0

The Climate Outreach team recognised the need for a fresh approach to climate change imagery by creating the Climate Visuals project.

The Climate Visuals project is based on social science research that suggests “classic” images of climate change, such as polar bears and deforestation, often result in cynicism and fatigue among people. Because of this, they are committed to remaking “the visual representation of climate change in the public mind”, with images that show the many dimensions of climate change.

A woman installing solar panels on the roof in Bhutan. By Asian Development Bank. CC BY 2.0

The project has image galleries that provide Carbon Literacy Trainers and Consultants with an effective tool to win the hearts and minds of participants, connect climate change to their everyday concerns, and promote positive and innovative solutions to the challenges of climate change.

The collection of images is arranged in an easily accessible manner on the Climate Visuals website. While many of the images are free to use (Click here for Creative Commons Licenced Images), some require a fee to download. Many other websites also offer free climate-change related images.

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