Optimism rules as climate activists ‘show the love’ on Valentine’s Day

As the UK climate coalition prepares its annual green love-bomb we ask a comms expert what images work – and what turn people off


By Ed King

Show the love for the climate this Valentine’s Day.

That’s the message from some of the UK’s top green groups, launching what’s now an annual push to turn hearts green on 14 February.

A short film shot by award-winning author Michael Morpurgo featuring Jeremy Irons and Maxine Peake has notched a modest 13,000 views so far, but that’s just the start.

Activists will bombard social media with a deluge of artwork over the weekend, aimed at accentuating the positives of global climate action.

No more dying polar bears, flooded cities or lonely penguins. These pictures speak to a world that’s moving towards a cleaner, greener future.

They’re hoping to reach beyond those converted to the climate cause, to a wider audience.

Beyond polar bears: Why climate images matter

We asked Jamie Clarke from Oxford-based Climate Outreach for his take on these tactics.

“Positive, relevant images are well received as are ones that tell new stories across audiences,” he tells Climate Home.

“Wind turbines are very negatively received by the centre-right in UK so any picture including them is likely to be rejected

“The 100% renewables line (see below) has not been tested as far as we know with any audiences – our research with centre-right audiences suggests that this audience is very wary of ‘over-claiming’ by the environmental sector.

“The same research concludes that ‘big numbers’ are not an effective way to talk to this audience about climate change, instead personal stories and testimony are more effective. Consistently centre-right audiences want moderate and balanced conversations.”

Below Jamie works his way through some of the images likely to appear on Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat and other media this weekend.


The Avengers!

– it is a new visual story

– images of politicians can be very negatively received (particularly if they are from different political views of the audience) in our research there was a particular loathing of staged political photo opps – which this is not, but could fit into that category



– would work for the converted potentially but less likely for wider audiences

– protest images are generally dismissed by non-environmentalists


Samoa  & Scotland images

– the positive can do approach is likely to resonate with wider audiences but it is questionable if they will relate to any other than Scotland

– there are no engaging people in the images and our studies shows people are most likely to look at a picture which includes people looking at viewer


Elon Musk (owner of electric carmaker Tesla)

– this is  good in that it is a strong personal story but very few people in UK know who he is so may not relate to him

– it fits with the over-claiming narrative that centre-right dislike, they also like people to ‘be honest and open about the challenges of transitioning to a low carbon economy’


Solar is Coming

– no emotional connection (no people bar Daenerys Targaryen from Game of Thrones)

– our centre-right research shows renewables are more accepted when small-scale rather than large-scale



– the plus is it’s a city many can relate to

– but – there are no people to emotionally connect with

– a potentially positive tangible example of solutions happening but again centre-right viewers are likely to see this as overclaiming

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