The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists discusses how to explain climate change – with comic books.
If you are reading this, you probably already know a lot about climate change. But what images come to mind if I asked you to visualize climate change?
You may think of melting ice caps or forest fires, drowning coastlines or desertification, or maybe even all these things at once. But that makes for a problem, as these are all contradictory images: floods or fires, water or desert.
Consequently, climate change is hard to summarize into a single, compelling image. Climate change is not just one thing, but rather a complex system of interconnected problems—most of which you may have never experienced directly, but only seen over and over in TV footage or newspapers.
That makes for a challenge, when it comes to communicating about climate change: It’s hard for human beings to relate to something that we cannot see. That may be why for far too long, the debate around the climate crisis seems to focus on so-called “beliefs:” those who believed it was coming and those who didn’t.
Of course, to us scientists—who have learned to read the data on carbon emissions and temperature trends—there was an obvious correlation between the rise in average global temperatures and the increase in carbon emissions since the dawn of the industrial revolution. But the vast majority of people cannot see any readily detectable, incremental changes in their everyday lives, and to most of us, seeing is believing. Snow keeps falling in winter, and the sun keeps shining in summer. So, to the public mind there were no real facts to contend with; they feel as if they are expected to believe in what the scientists are telling them.