Climate change art

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Tempestries, an example of climate change art, representing change in temperature in a given location over time

Climate change art is art inspired by climate change and global warming, generally intended to overcome humans' hardwired tendency to value personal experience over data and to disengage from data-based representations[1] by making the data "vivid and accessible".[2] The intention is to "make an emotional connection...through the power of art".[3]

Climate change art is created both by scientists and by non-scientist artists. The field overlaps with data art.


Omnipresent and relevant, yet abstract and statistical by nature, as well as invisible for the naked eye – climate change is a subject matter in need for perception and cognition support par excellence.[4]

The Guardian said that in response to a backlash in the 1990s against fossil fuels and nuclear plants, major energy companies stepped up their philanthropic giving, including to arts organizations, "to a point where many major national institutions were on the payroll of the fossil fuel giants," effectively silencing many environmentally-focussed artists.[5] In 2009 they said the art world was "waking up to climate-change art."[6]

Effects and influence[edit]

Journalist Betsy Mason wrote in Knowable that humans are visual creatures by nature, absorbing information in graphic form that would elude them in words, adding that bad visuals can impair public understanding of science.[7] Similarly, Bang Wong, creative director of MIT’s Broad Institute, stated that visualizations can reveal patterns, trends and connections in data that are difficult or impossible to find any other way.[7]

In particular, climate change art has been used, both to make scientific data more accessible to non-scientists, and to express people’s fears.[8] Some research indicates that climate change art is not particularly effective in changing peoples views, though art with a "hopeful" message gives people ideas for change.[8] Projecting a positive message, climate scientist Ed Hawkins said that "infiltrating popular culture is a means of triggering a change of attitude that will lead to mass action".[9]

It is thought that people who engage with climate change art feel a sense of belonging, a feeling of connection to a cause, and a sense of empowerment.[8] Participatory climate change art, such as downloading warming stripes graphics for one's own locality or using a climate-related logo, provides an interactive element that gets people involved.[8]


In 2007, artist Eve Mosher used a sports-field chalk marker to draw a blue "high-water" line around Manhattan and Brooklyn, showing the areas that would be underwater if climate change predictions are realized. Her HighWaterLine Project has since drawn high-water lines around Bristol, Philadelphia, and two coastal cities in Florida.[2]

In 2012, filmmaker Jeff Orlowski made Chasing Ice, documenting photographer James Balog's Extreme Ice Survey, which uses time-lapse photography to show the disappearance of glaciers over time.[2]

In 2013, undergraduate cellist Daniel Crawford created "Song of Our Warming Planet" in which musical notes, representing annual global average surface temperature readings since 1880, ascend to higher and higher pitches as the song progresses.[10]

In 2015, University of Georgia marine scientist Joan Sheldon produced a scarf illustrating average yearly temperature from the 1600s to the present using one row per year.[11]

In 2016, Ed Hawkins, a scientist at the National Centre for Atmospheric Science and the University of Reading, created "climate spirals," a series of data art representations of global warming, and followed in 2018 with "warming stripes," a series of colored stripes representing chronologically ordered average annual temperature anomalies for a given location.[1][12]

Starting in 2017 The Tempestry Project encouraged fiber artists to create "tempestries", scarf-size banners showing temperature change over time. Each tempestry is knitted or crocheted, one row per day in a color representing that day's high temperature, for a year. Two or more tempestries for the same location, each representing different years, are displayed together to show daily high temperature change over time.

In 2018 artist Xavier Cortada's project Underwater Home Owner's Association placed signs in front yards throughout Miami, Florida indicating each property's height above sea level to illustrate what sea level rise would flood that property.[1][13]

In 2019, the Grantham Institute - Climate Change and the Environment, Imperial College London, launched its inaugural Grantham Art Prize, commissioning original works by six artists who collaborated with climate researchers. Each piece aimed to provoke thought and conversation about the climate crisis.

Animated GIF: This Ed Hawkins climate spiral portrays changing temperatures as a spiral with expanding radius.[14]
Final frame of a climate spiral portrays recent warmer temperatures with brighter colors further from the center.[15]
Ed Hawkins' warming stripes graphics portray global warming as a series of color-coded stripes, purposely devoid of scientific notation to be quickly understandable by non-scientists.[16]
Extinction Rebellion's logo, symbolizing the Earth enclosing an hourglass.[17]
Emanuele Bevacqua's circular warming stripes graphic portrays global warming as color-coded rings that evolve from blues to reds with increasing temperatures.[18]
This stacked warming stripes graphic—technically a two-dimensional heat map—organizes global temperatures in two dimensions (month and year).[19]
Video: Antti Lipponen portrays global warming by changing lengths of colored radial spikes arranged by country.
Video: Antti Lipponen portrays global warming as ring with colors that evolve over time.
Sequence of piano notes portraying respective annual global average temperature readings since 1850, similar to Daniel Crawford's cello composition, "Song of Our Warming Planet".[10] The sequence portrays global warming with notes of progressively higher pitches.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Brookshire, Bethany. "Using art to show the threat of climate change: These seven artists are using climate change concepts in their work". Science News for Students. Archived from the original on 8 April 2019. Retrieved 20 May 2019.
  2. ^ a b c "Art Makes Environmental Change Real: Experiencing the science of climate change rather than learning about it". Scientific American. Archived from the original on 10 October 2016. Retrieved 20 May 2019.
  3. ^ "This Incredible Climate Change Art Will Leave You Floored". Climate Reality Project. Retrieved 20 May 2019.
  4. ^ Windhager, Florian; Schreder, Günther; Mayr, Eva (2019). "On Inconvenient Images: Exploring the Design Space of Engaging Climate Change Visualizations for Public Audiences". Workshop on Visualisation in Environmental Sciences (EnvirVis). The Eurographics Association: 1–8. doi:10.2312/envirvis.20191098.
  5. ^ Krug, Oliver. "From foil-wrapped glaciers to the Alpine storm cyclist: the artists fighting climate change: After too long a silence, art is finally tackling global warming". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 21 March 2019. Retrieved 20 May 2019.
  6. ^ Bunting, Madeleine (2009-12-02). "The rise of climate-change art". The Guardian. Retrieved 2019-05-20.
  7. ^ a b Mason, Betsy (November 12, 2019). "Why scientists need to be better at data visualization". Knowable. Archived from the original on November 15, 2019.
  8. ^ a b c d Amsen, Eva (September 30, 2019). "Climate Change Art Helps People Connect With A Challenging Topic". Forbes. Archived from the original on October 1, 2019.
  9. ^ Dussert, Margaux (23 September 2019). "Réchauffement climatique : ce graphique scientifique fait le buzz (Global warming: this scientific graph is making a buzz)". L'EDN (in French). Archived from the original on 22 October 2019.
  10. ^ a b Revkin, Andrew C. (July 2, 2013). "Global Warming Trend and Variations Charted by Cello". The New York Times. Archived from the original on October 5, 2019.
  11. ^ Schwab, Katharine (11 January 2019). "Crafting takes a dark turn in the age of climate crisis". Fast Company. Archived from the original on 11 January 2019. Retrieved 11 January 2019.
  12. ^ "Ed Hawkins' warming stripes add colour to climate communication - National Centre for Atmospheric Science". National Centre for Atmospheric Science. Archived from the original on 2019-05-17. Retrieved 2019-05-18.
  13. ^ Lescaze, Zoe. "12 Artists On: Climate Change: A dozen artistic responses to one of the greatest threats of our time". New York Times. Archived from the original on 2 April 2019. Retrieved 20 May 2019.
  14. ^ Hawkins, Ed (2018). "Climate spirals / Global temperature change (1805-2017)". Climate Lab Book. Archived from the original on 27 July 2019. (Direct link to image).
  15. ^ Hawkins, Ed (2018). "Climate spirals / Global temperature change (1805-2017)". Climate Lab Book. Archived from the original on 27 July 2019. (Direct link to animated GIF).
  16. ^ Hawkins, Ed (4 December 2018). "2018 visualisation update / Warming stripes for 1850-2018 using the WMO annual global temperature dataset". Climate Lab Book. Archived from the original on 17 April 2019. (Direct link to image)
  17. ^ Rose, Steve (16 April 2019). "How the symbol for extinction became this generation's peace sign". The Guardian. Archived from the original on October 13, 2019.
  18. ^ Bevacqua, Emanuele (University of Reading) (November 2018). "Climate Change Visualizations". Archived from the original on 29 July 2019. (University of Reading affiliate).
  19. ^ "Average World Temperature Since 1850". Reddit, "DataIsBeautiful" subreddit. 15 June 2016. Archived from the original on 15 June 2016.Data source: University of East Anglia Climate Research Unit (CRU) (archive).

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