swimming, ice cream, water games… Climate experts single out the media for their visual treatment of the climate crisis

“What if the media stopped showing pictures of beaches and ice cream to illustrate the heat wave?” On full alert for environmental media, Vert questions journalistic practices, Tuesday 14 June. The output is relentless: vHeat after heat, heat after heat, abnormally high temperatures are often accompanied by positive illustrations in the media. Also, blame is needed for me: Franceinfo has not always been perfect.

>> Weather: follow live the aftermath of the early heatwave that hit France

But the annoyance of these images in the media is growing. Increasingly, scientists studying global warming (and whose work points to the dangers associated with every tenth degree of additional warming) are warning about this practice. In a lengthy Twitter thread on Sunday, June 12, climate scientist Christophe Cassou challenged reporters: “Please stop showing images of people bathing during the heat wave.He wrote. Thank you for confirming a direct link between the occurrence of heat waves and human influence (the link is very reliable).”

In his speech, the climatologist who is among the authors of the IPCC report recalls “the cognitive dissonance” provoked by these iconographic choices. Know, “the gap between the reality of extreme events resulting in loss of life – increased mortality, pressure on hospitals, economic consequences, forest fires, impact on crop yields, etc. and these beautiful pictures, explains geographer Magali Reghezza, a member of the Supreme Climate Council. Positive representations associated with what else is presented as “summer ahead of time”, “Do not take into account the huge blows to society from abnormal heat. And at worst, they cause dangerous behavior.” she continues.

This dissonance was documented by the British geographer Saffron O’Neill. Examining media coverage of the 2019 summer heatwave in France, Germany, the Netherlands and the UK, she noted that “Most of the images showed people having fun in or near the water., even when the text of the article invokes heat-related tragedies, she explains in message series posted May 6 on Twitter detailing the findings of his study. (in English).

There are so many positive or disembodied visual images, such as a landscape or a thermometer, that “upstage the experience of humans vulnerable to these extreme heatwaves, not to mention the impact on animals, plants and other non-human species.” and perpetuate “the idea that climate change might be an abstract and distant issue.” How to explain the difficulty of presenting this news correctly? Magali Reghezza indicates weight “inheritance”.

“These episodes have been exceptional for a long time and it was really nice to have temperatures in the 30s to 35s from time to time. But there, when we go over 40s and the episodes repeat, it’s not the same anymore.”

Magali Regezza, geographer

Already in 2021, when “thermal dome” ignited southwestern Canada and the northeastern United States, the freeze frame indicated these “visual standards” associated with every climate event and immortalized by free image banks from which the media draws. “After a few years, fixed, recognizable stories, which are likely to be implemented fairly quickly by the editorial office, became necessary”explained columnist André Günther, citing “a catalog of recurring images that form new stereotypes”.

Decided to get out The keeper as of 2019, a change in visual tone is expected. Editorially transparent, the British daily newspaper explained how the problem arose in connection with the publication of a slideshow about the heat wave in June this year. “In the first version, the tone was lighter, but on reflection, we thought it was a poor choice that denied the current context, and we have updated the post to include images reflecting other people’s experiences in the face of these unusual temperatures.”the paper explained.

In France, World followed in the footsteps of the prestigious British daily newspaper. “For example, if we cannot find an illustration that suits us, we sometimes send a photographer or call a specialized agency”, Explain Polina Eiferman, deputy editor-in-chief of the photo department of the newspaper, interview France Inter. “The photos are much more impressive, with real captions that serve the article.”

To end these stereotypes, Green cites several initiatives: in Climate Visuals photobase in the United Kingdom or in France, the study Images and Actions and its image database destined “who wants to avoid clumsy communication on climate issues”.

“We expect the media to be players in the field of information and prevention.”

Magali Regezza, geographer

on Franceinfo

So the heat wave display is also “go to vulnerable people: the elderly, of course, but also single women, the homeless, workers, people living in heat sieves, seasonal workers…” An editorial adjustment in the face of the emergency that she believes will promote a more equitable iconographic culture. “This is not about making people feel guilty, but about reporting the reality of the heat wave. Reality is not umbrellas. Tonight, people who will be too hot to sleep will not find the heat pleasant. losing grandparents and overworked caregivers”she concludes.