The Melbourne Climate Futures Academy Seminar Series – The Visual Life of Climate Change

8 Mar 2023, 12:30pm-1:30pm

Online, and In-Person (Steve Howard Room, 5206, Level 5, Melbourne Connect)

Presented by Dr Saffron O’Neill (University of Exeter, UK)


About this Event

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 to 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 though, 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 which can stigmatise particular groups of people, and which 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 on peoples’ 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.

About the Presenter

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. Saffron’s research specialism is the visual communication of climate change. She currently holds a Leverhulme Research Fellowship on this topic titled ‘The Visual Life of Climate Change’. Saffron is also Co-Director of the ESRC ACCESS network (Advancing Capacity for Climate and Environment Social Science). Saffron is a regular commentator on climate and sustainability issues in the media; and has acted as an advisor to national and international stakeholders on environmental risk, public engagement with sustainability and climate communication. Saffron tweets regularly about climate change communication, media and journalism, visual imagery and on working towards a more inclusive research culture @SaffronJONeill.