Leveraging the Power of Images

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Human beings are highly visual. Pictures have the power to change the world.

That’s why Climate Central makes visual storytelling part of so much we do. And that’s why, as nations gathered for critical climate talks in Paris in 2015, and again in Glasgow in 2021, we plastered global media with powerful science-based images that – as one journalist wrote – “you can’t unsee.”

We made photo-realistic renderings of two possible futures for iconic places in coastal cities around the world, tied closely to our scientific research. One future was based on long-term projections of sea level rise if we keep polluting; the other, on sea levels if we quickly stop.

Each time, our research, maps, and imagery appeared in thousands of news stories in top outlets in more than one hundred countries. Millions visited our online tools.

Ahead of Paris, Climate Central compared 2°C vs. 4°C futures. Our work was covered in 70-100% of the ten highest-circulation outlets in each of China, India, Australia, Brazil, the United States, and beyond – major polluters and critical parties to the talks. Independent content analysis of the coverage revealed its top theme: the 2°C target then under discussion was not enough"). A few weeks later, the final Paris Agreement unexpectedly named a goal of limiting warming to 1.5°C.

This ambition was driven by heroic leaders from small island nations whose very existence is threatened by sea level rise. But Climate Central’s images – of Shanghai and Mumbai, of Sydney, Rio and more – must have been fresh in the minds of the delegates they were trying to persuade.

Ahead of Glasgow, we published Picturing Our Future, a dramatically expanded gallery including one thousand images and videos, covering one hundred cities. Our work generated more than 3,000 media stories, and reached diplomats, presidents, CEOs and NGOs alike.

Today our efforts to picture the possible future continue, with FloodVision, a system and plan to create imagery this powerful for every coastal neighborhood in America, and beyond.