By Matthew Rech
In a recent paper, Kate Manzo discusses the iconography of climate change in contemporary climate action campaigns. She argues that the visual communication of climate change is rooted both in scientific denotations of global warming and in connotations of danger and vulnerability. Images of the ‘whole earth’, of melting glaciers, and “unspecified” victims of natural disaster work to “connote collective danger and vulnerability”.
What remains pertinent here is thinking about how climate change, its dangers, and our vulnerabilities are evidenced, represented and consumed. Reporting for the BBC, Judith Burns highlights research findings that document the release of methane gas from the Arctic sea-bed. Arguably providing evidence of a positive feedback effect caused by sea temperature rise, the seepage of this “powerful greenhouse gas” may, in the future, cause erratic and unpredictable effects on both biodiversity and general greenhouse gas levels.
What is clear in this case, as Manzo suggests of climate action campaigns, is that climate science is unable to provide us with a universal definition of “dangerous climate change”. However, what is also clear is that danger and vulnerability are implicit. Along with the inherent uncertainties of undefined potential threats, it is our consumption of popular news media (replete with connotative terms as “ocean warming” and “greenhouse gasses”) that is constituent in the cultural production of danger and vulnerability.