Representing climate change futures: a critique on the use of images for visual communication

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How people perceive their role and the responsibilities of others in determining the outcomes of climate change is of great importance for policy-making, adaptation and climate change mitigation. However, for many people, climate change is a remote problem and not one of personal concern.

Meaningful visualisations depicting climate change futures could help to bridge the gap between what may seem an abstract concept and everyday experience, making clearer its local and individual relevance. Computer aided visualisation has great potential as a means to interest and engage different groups in society. However, the way in which information is represented affects an individual's interpretation and uptake, and how they see their present choices affecting their future and that of others.

The empirical content of this paper summarises the results of an exploratory qualitative study, consisting of 30 semi-structured interviews investigating people's visual conceptions and feelings about climate change. The emphasis of the inquiry is focussed on eliciting people's spontaneous visualisations of climate change and their feelings of involvement with the issue. The insights gained from the described empirical work set the scene for further research, which will employ the use of a range of images and visualisations for evaluation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)255-273
Number of pages19
JournalComputers, Environment and Urban Systems
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - May 2005


  • Climate change
  • Visualisation
  • Communication

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