The visual rhetoric of climate change

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Walsh, Lynda
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A unique perspective on climate-change graphics is provided by the discipline of rhetoric, which treats these images as arguments that configure polities in specific debates over climate change. Rhetorical approaches remind us that all climate-change arguments are political and that their effects are contingent on the time and place of their presentation. While the research in this area is new and diverse, nevertheless, some common findings emerge: that habitual ways of visualizing climate change work against, not for, effective political action; that rhetorical choices do and should underpin technical climate graphics at fundamental levels; but ironically that nonexperts, and even some experts, perpetuate the myth that climate graphics are transparent, untransformed views of nature. Rhetorical scholarship to date suggests a few paths forward through these problems toward more just, equitable, and effective public deliberation over climate-change policy.


Walsh, L. 2015. The visual rhetoric of climate change. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change. doi:10.1002/wcc.342