UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Fire and ice : the visual rhetoric of climate change images Greyson, Cecilia


In the last twenty years, there has been extensive analysis of print and broadcast coverage of climate change, but few scholars have specifically examined the visual images presented with climate change coverage. As a prominent issue of public discourse, climate change has developed its own specific lexicon of cultural signifiers and visual idioms, including images of melting glaciers, polar animals, and a “burning” planet Earth. This project examines visual images associated with climate change coverage from several online (website) sources, including two Google image searches, three media outlet sites, and four non-governmental organization websites that generate literature or information about climate change for an international audience. By analyzing content, thematic elements, and rhetorical issues relating to the displayed images, this project attempts to develop a discussion of the significance of images used by online sources featuring climate change content. Images featuring “ice” and “fire” motifs are still popular, although other generalized, iconic imagery was also evident, depicting smokestacks, alternative energy projects, and extreme weather scenarios. In general, media outlets tended to feature more specific photographic content, while other organizations used more generalized content, often featuring images of de-populated “wild” landscapes that conform to Western cultural rhetoric associated with the natural world.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International