Consuming climate change

Climate change icon

Climate change icon

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.

60% world

Read Judith Burns’ report at BBC news online


60% world

Read Kate Manzo (2009) Imaging vulnerability: the iconography of climate change. Area

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About matthewrech

Matthew Rech is a doctoral student in Geography at the University of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. His current research focuses on military recruitment practices associated with the Royal Air Force. Whilst primarily rooted in the sub-discipline of Critical Geopolitics, the project draws heavily upon key conceptual debates in cultural geography, cultural studies and aesthetic theory. The methodological approach emphasises the more-than-representational qualities of military recruitment, and the particular ways of seeing that make recruitment effective. Matthew attained his BA in Geography in 2007 and his MA in Human Geography Research in 2008, both at the University of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. Previous dissertations have focused on systems theory and environmental policy, and the social effects of natural disaster.

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