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Title: An iconic approach to representing climate change
Author: O'Neill, Saffron Jessica
ISNI:       0000 0001 3453 8990
Awarding Body: University of East Anglia
Current Institution: University of East Anglia
Date of Award: 2008
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In order to meet the UK Government's 60% greenhouse gas emissions reduction target, there is a need for non-experts to be meaningfully engaged with the issue of climate change. This thesis investigates the value of engaging non-experts with climate change at the individual level. Research demonstrates that individuals perceive climate change as temporally and spatially remote, and not of personal concern. There are psychological, social and institutional barriers to meaningful engagement with climate change. More effective methods for engaging the public with climate change are needed which address the psychological barriers to change. An 'iconic' approach was developed to harness the emotive and visual power of climate icons with a rigorous scientific analysis of climate impacts under a different climate future. 'I~ons' are defined as tangible entities which will be impacted by climate change, considered worthy of respect by the viewer, and to which the viewer can relate to and feel empathy· for. Such icons already exist: for example, melting of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet or Thermohaline Circulation shutdown. However, these 'expert-led' icons have failed to engage non-experts. The selection of nonexpert icons enables individuals to engage with climate change through their personal perceptions and values. A robust sourcing for 'non-expert icons' was carried out using focus groups and online survey methodologies. A suite of icons representative of the reasoning behind individuals' non-expert icons was selected. Expert-led icons were identified from 'Sleeping 9iants' emerging from the Exeter Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change conference. Impact assessments were then carried out for the suite of expert-led and non-expert icons under a specified greenhouse gas emissions scenario and to an imaginable timescale. Methodologies used to investigate climate impacts on the icons included a survey of expert opinion, quantitative modelling and spatial analysis using a Geographic Information System (GIS). The cognitive and affective impact of the non-expert and expert-led icons upon individuals was investigated through an evaluative pre/post test workshop. The expert-led icons· generally disengaged individuals. Expert-led icons had little personal impact and invoked emotions such as helplessness or boredom, and were considered too scientific or complex. Conversely, non-expert icons tended to impact upon the individual, the local area or nature; and invoked affective and cognitive engagement with climate change.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available