Climate change visuals are metaphorically-driven

Peter Makwanya

guest column: Peter Makwanya

The role of metaphors in communicating climate science can never be under-estimated. Metaphors are used by scientists in developing thought as well as communicating with non-scientists.

In this regard, metaphors play a critical role in the development of scientific knowledge.

The reason behind climate change communicators, scientists and practitioners in settling for metaphors in communicating climate change information is that they are powerful, persuasive and excite all sensory properties.

Metaphors are generally figurative expressions, be they linguistic, visual or material.

The role of metaphors in influencing how people conceive and interpret the world is a milestone.

The powers and persuasive appeals of metaphors can be accorded human, animal and material attributes in order to conquer the unknown, including the effective and successful communication of climate science information to the public.

The nature of this public is quite heterogeneous, hence it includes the climate literates, laypersons and the less informed.

Metaphors are fundamental in the sense that they are constitutive, adaptive and interactive, with the aim of helping in shaping the way important information is apprehended.

In the case of climate change, visual metaphors are quite pervading to the human minds in order to evoke concrete mental images of climate change impacts floods, cyclones, land degradations, drought phenomena and other related disasters.

The issues of source domains to target domains are also inherent in climate change visual metaphors became the majority of these metaphors have strong orientation to humans’ ontological sphere.

The objects, images and materials adding up to visual metaphors have strong influence and relationship to the human being.

Visual metaphors use pictorial representations or visual devices with an alignment to identities based on human insights regarding their world views and experiences.

Climate change visual metaphors would function in the same way as verbal metaphors do in order to augment human orientations and encounters in their
relationship with their environment.

Climate change visual metaphors are material constructions of climate images or objects as extensions of climate change impacts.

While visual metaphors don’t have verbal source domains, verbal metaphors have visual source domains.

Visual metaphors are quite cross-cutting, with their mechanisms shared by a variety of common metaphors. In other words, visual metaphors are constitutive,
comprehensive and encompassing.

While they are independent of language, they are based on visual features like the scotched earth, sun-baked crops, open casts, debris, images of industrial
smoke, garbage and many others.

Visual metaphors rely on qualitative traits of metaphors, especially in the form of appearance and form.

Visual metaphors normally provide the relationship between the image and texts, as observers understand more from what they see rather than what they read.

Visual metaphors are significant, in that they exemplify the actual composition of a given visual.

And the perception of the metaphor is based on its visual power or pull factor, instead of conceptual understanding or cognition.

What makes the climate change visual metaphors appeal to the audience is that they are colour coded in images that represent reality and which public or even
the layperson can understand without any challenges.

Visual metaphors communicate reality, they communicate life and they are constitutive of the environmental and scientific landscapes.