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What is it
Join Melbourne Climate Futures in a discussion on dominant media narratives about climate change, the risks of poorly represented imagery and how it impacts people’s engagement.
08/03/2023 12:30pm - 1:30pm

Melbourne Connect, Room 5206 (Level 5)

Register here

MCF Academy Seminar Series: The visual life of climate change

Images are everywhere. They play a key role in the media; they are vivid and emotive tools drawing us in to a topic, helping us to remember information to connect different issues together.

So, too, for climate change: images play a central role in how we engage with the issue. They influence our emotional responses and even our behaviour, including our voting intentions.

Despite the importance of imagery for shaping how we think and feel about climate change, they are often relegated to the status of background ‘wallpaper’, given little thought by researchers, journalists, policymakers and others. This is a problem as it can lead to images that stigmatise particular groups of people. It can also lead to images that poorly represent the risks of climate change and, importantly, how we could address those risks.

This talk will summarise Dr O’Neill’s work in this area, from discussing which images are dominant in media narratives about climate change (and which are marginalised), to how this impacts people’s engagement.

Three cases studies of climate imagery (polar bears, climate protest and heatwave imagery) will be used to show the limitations of current visual portrayals of climate change in the media, but also to show how a more diverse visual discourse can help us re-envision how we might act, adapt and flourish in a climate-changed future.


  • Dr Saffron O’Neill is Associate Professor in Geography at the University of Exeter, UK. Her research explores the social science dimensions of climate variability and change, particularly focusing on communication and public engagement.