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Climate Visuals central to IPCC’s 1.5C report communications strategy

December 10 2018

Robert Van Waarden

When the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was preparing to launch their 1.5C Special Report, they reached out to Climate Visuals for help. For the first time, they had decided to use a collection of imagery to help communicate this massive and important report.

It was an opportunity we couldn’t turn down - changing the visual language of climate change requires supporting the working practices of a whole range of organisations and communicators, including scientists.

There is no more prominent climate science organisation than the IPCC and the IPCC is all about evidence. Climate Outreach has already provided evidence-based communications guidance for the IPCC in the form of a Communications Handbook for IPCC authors, and so using Climate Visuals (the world’s only evidence-based climate image library) to curate images for the 1.5C report launch made total sense.

How did we select the imagery for the IPCC?

The request appeared simple: help a partner curate a collection of imagery for a report. The complicating factor? This report literally touches on all aspects of society and life on this planet, and asks how to keep global temperatures from rising more than 1.5C.

We were tasked with curating a set of 25 images that could be used by the IPCC in a variety of different media, and we had questions. How should we narrow down an all encompassing report to a small selection of images? How could we avoid favoritism for any geographical area or specific technology? How would we avoid focusing on one specific issue? How do we illustrate ‘society’?

In searching for the right images, we partnered with our agency partner Aurora Photos. We knew that their photographers had the necessary specialities and their small nimble agency would be ideal to work with on a tight timeline.

Our team dove into the Aurora archive and started to pull out images based on a brief from the IPCC. These images were sent to the communications team at the IPCC and the Co-Chairs of each Working Group (the people who make a lot of the decisions within the IPCC). They came back, the brief was adjusted and we tried again (and again and again…!)

The reality was that the images had to adequately illustrate the chapters, form a cohesive and balanced unit and not over empathise any one subject. With so many different factors it was natural to return to the drawing board a few times. Working together, we eventually agreed on some powerful imagery, which reflected both the needs of the IPCC in illustrating their report, and key Climate Visuals principles.

How and where is the IPCC using these images?

These images were first used during the IPCC’s official press conference for the launch of the report in South Korea. They are also being used in presentations made by IPCC Co-Chairs around the world.

Among others, this photo of a football match in Greenland was used at the report’s UK launch in the slide "Climate change and people."

Our images have also been centre stage at the COP24 UN climate summit currently underway in Poland.

And last but not least, you may have seen that the IPCC launched a new website last week. In the website's section for the 1.5C report, our Climate Visuals images are featured prominently and add a much needed visual depth to the report findings.

Looking forward

We feel this is a huge step in the right direction for the IPCC in terms of developing effective tools for engaging and communicating with wider audiences. This is a massive and important report, but one that few will read in detail. Ensuring that all future IPCC reports include relevant and engaging images will help ensure these crucial publications get the reception they deserve.

In the months ahead, the team at the IPCC will take full advantage of this library of images we curated for them and we will see more of these compelling images in the future. Maybe next time, the front cover of the report will be brought to you by Climate Visuals...watch this space!