Skip to main content

Climate change

Visualising the climate crisis

Changing the way we visualise the climate crisis is the aim of a powerful photography project.

Climate Visuals, an outreach project of charity Climate Outreach, aims to move away from staged, cliché or gimmicky images to photos of climate action or impact at scale, and with local and emotional context.

“Polar bears, melting ice and arrays of smoke stacks don’t convey the urgent human stories at the heart of the issue,” the Climate Visuals website states.

The online curated photo collection is based on international social research and discussion groups, which produced seven core principles for visual climate change communication:

  • Show ‘real people’ not staged photo-ops
  • Tell new stories
  • Show climate causes at scale
  • Climate impacts are emotionally powerful
  • Show local (but serious) climate impacts
  • Be very careful with protest imagery
  • Understand your audience

Shopping by Boat Through Flood Water

Shopping by boat
Photo by DFID/Rafiqur Rahman Raqu.

Streets in the district of Satkhira, in southern Bangladesh, are flooded after months of heavy rain – people travel by boat to reach the local shop.

Reflecting the tensions found in previous research of climate change impact images, participants in discussion groups frequently focused on the ‘but what can I do?’ question. This reinforces the importance of coupling emotionally intense ‘impacts’ image with practical guidance on ‘actions’ that can be taken in response to this heightened emotional arousal.

Forest Fires and Blaze

Forest Fires and Blaze
Photo by Quarrie Photography/Jeff Walsh/Cass Hodge.

A bushfire burns for the second day around the Cessnock town of Aberdare, in Australia. Climate Visuals research suggests that showing a climate impact – in this case a bush fire – from the perspective of identifiable individuals (the firefighters) is more powerful than the impact without the individuals.

Solar Power India

Solar Power India
Photo by Abbie Trayler-Smith/UK DFID.

A barefoot solar engineer in the solar powered village of Tinginapu, in the Eastern Ghats of Orissa. This striking image tells a powerful story, is unusual and distinct, but is easy to understand and shows a positive proactive climate solution.

Turtle and Oil Spill

Turtle image
Photo by National Ocean Service, NOAA.

Dr Brian Stacy, a National Ocean Service veterinarian, prepares to clean an oiled Kemp’s Ridley turtle after the BP Gulf of Mexico oil spill. With an identifiable animal in distress, and a single person dealing with the aftermath of an oil spill, research suggests that images like this are more likely to connect with viewers.

POV Cycle Commute

POV Cycle
Photo by Jackman ChiuFollow.

Bike to work day in Toronto, Canada. In Climate Visuals' discussion groups, people had a preference for authentic and unstaged images of positive climate solutions embedded in every day life. 

Engendering the Response to Climate Change

Photo by Jervis Sundays/Kenya Red Cross Society.  

A Kenyan woman and boy struggle with the dusty wind looking for water. This is what climate change looks like in Kenya and other parts of Sub-Saharan Africa.


    Wicked Leeks is out now

    Cover star, Jyoti Fernandes, tells of the small producers standing up for their rights, while elsewhere we explore climate-friendly eating and how to eat seasonal in spring.

    Read now

    Choose food that hasn't flown.

    Riverford organic veg boxes are delivered directly to your door. Choose your box now.

    Go to Riverford

    The net zero counter narrative

    Read our coverage of the new trend for net zero and see beyond the headlines.

    Read more

    Grow Your Own

    Our monthly gardening advice column offers timely advice for your organic patch, whether you're an expert grower or just starting out.


    Boom in organic unmatched by farming

    Sales of organic boomed during 2020 as the pandemic boosted interest in food quality but growth will be met by imports as UK farmers hold back.

    Read more
    Spread the word

    The twin crises of climate change and biodiversity losses will be the defining stories of our future, but it is not too late to change direction. 

    Here at Wicked Leeks, our mission is to help inform and inspire positive change. Our journalism is free to all because of this, but we want to reach as many people as possible who share our desire for a better world. We know our readers are some of the biggest advocates of sustainable living, and you can help us grow this movement by sharing this article widely, with your friends and on social media. Now is the time to act.