“The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it”
said Neil deGrasse Tyson, the American astrophysicist. It’s a celebrated quote that chimes with one of the dominant themes of the UN’s Climate Conference, COP26. Billed as the ‘last chance’ to rein in climate change before global temperatures break-through through the 1.5 degrees Celsius target, COP26 has presented a clear and unequivocal message from the scientific community. Whether it’s fires, floods, or wholesale loss of biodiversity; all of the indicators of the climate emergency are pointing to the fact that it is happening and it’s going to get worse.
Outright denial that climate change is happening simply isn’t credible any more since the effects are increasingly visible. A recent survey conducted by the Office for National Statistics in October 2021 suggests that there’s widespread concern about climate change among people of all ages in the UK. Younger age groups were slightly more likely to report being very anxious about the future of the environment and global surveys point to high levels of ‘eco-anxiety’ among teenagers.
Last week, we had the opportunity to discuss some of these issues in the Green Zone of COP26, when we presented the findings of a research project on young people and climate communication. Part of the Creative Associates programme at the University, our project – Visualising Climate: Young People’s Responses to the Climate Emergency – involved us going into schools across Devon and hosting workshops with 16-18 year olds on this topic. Working with Devon-based photographer and designer Carey Marks and filmmaker James Ellwood of Fotonow, we used an interactive game (created by Carey) featuring illustrated visual icons to encourage the pupils to open up to us. What they shared provided a fascinating insight into how they access information through traditional and social media, and the role that ‘trust’ and brand/platform loyalty plays in how they process it.