This paper explores the iconography of media coverage in regard to climate science through an analysis of selected Spanish daily newspapers – El País, El Mundo, Abc and Expansión – from 2004 to 2010. A content analysis of their iconographic elements explores further, how the Spanish press rhetorically manages the power of images to build its discourse on climate change, its causes, its consequences, the involved social agents and even its victims. According to the results, three out of four news stories on climate science were illustrated by some iconographic element, mainly photographs (61%) along with computer-generated imagery (CGI) (22%). The most frequent photos showed the so-called "frozen universe rhetoric" of climate change, with pictures of ice, snow and glaciers, symbolizing a fragile word in danger of melting due to rising temperatures. These findings support the argument that the image rhetoric may have improved the communication of climate change information from the scientific sphere to the public one despite certain weak points: a limited use of the most informative CGI in comparison to the more extensive use of photographs showing impacts and people. Previous research revealed that these visual themes make climate change more relevant to the audience, but tend to undermine the feeling of personal efficacy. This work on the iconographic discourse of climate science news is part of a broader research, focused on analyzing media coverage of climate change science in the Spanish daily press.

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The iconographic discourse of climate science, examined through the press coverage of Spanish daily newspapers

Emilia Lopera   Research Unit on Scientific Culture

Carolina Moreno   University of Valencia

This paper explores the iconography of media coverage in regard to climate science through an analysis of selected Spanish daily newspapers – El País, El Mundo, Abc and Expansión – from 2004 to 2010. A content analysis of their iconographic elements explores further, how the Spanish press rhetorically manages the power of images to build its discourse on climate change, its causes, its consequences, the involved social agents and even its victims. According to the results, three out of four news stories on climate science were illustrated by some iconographic element, mainly photographs (61%) along with computer-generated imagery (CGI) (22%). The most frequent photos showed the so-called "frozen universe rhetoric" of climate change, with pictures of ice, snow and glaciers, symbolizing a fragile word in danger of melting due to rising temperatures. These findings support the argument that the image rhetoric may have improved the communication of climate change information from the scientific sphere to the public one despite certain weak points: a limited use of the most informative CGI in comparison to the more extensive use of photographs showing impacts and people. Previous research revealed that these visual themes make climate change more relevant to the audience, but tend to undermine the feeling of personal efficacy. This work on the iconographic discourse of climate science news is part of a broader research, focused on analyzing media coverage of climate change science in the Spanish daily press.

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