‘Seeing the Climate? The Problematic Status of Visual Evidence in Climate Change Campaigning’

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This paper argues that the effectiveness of visual rhetoric as a persuasive discourse within environmental campaigning reached a crisis point in the history of climate change communication. International environmental groups such as Greenpeace are often dependent upon the photographic image to provide evidence of environmental degradation and threat in order to persuade the public and governments to take action. As a result of this reliance, efforts over the last decade to bring awareness to a sceptical global audience of the potential impacts of human induced climate change were constrained by the very lack of visual evidence about this issue. This paper argues that this lack calls attention, on the one hand, to the problematics of communicating an ‘unseen’ environmental issue such as climate change within the confines of the visual rhetoric of much environmental discourse. At the same time, these limitations are inscribed more specifically by those of photography as a discourse of visual evidence and truth, unable to visualise, and thus make ‘real’, future environmental threats.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEcosee
Subtitle of host publicationImage, Rhetoric, and Nature
EditorsSidney Dobrin, Sean Morey
Place of PublicationNew York, USA
PublisherState University of New York Press
Number of pages20
ISBN (Print)9781438425832
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2009


  • photography
  • visual
  • climate change
  • environment
  • time


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