The story of climate change – using interactive media to explore the impacts of a warming planet

This week world leaders, environmental groups, policy makers and private sector representatives are convening in Marrakesh, Morocco for COP 22 a United Nations sponsored conference on climate change.  The main agenda for the conference will be targeted at concrete measures to meet goals set in the Paris Agreement, which commits countries to keeping global temperature rise–due to greenhouse gas emissions– to under 2 degrees centigrade

While government representatives spend the week in tense negotiations, over 500 other side events will be taking place at the conference.  Topics ranging from eco-feminism to e-mobility to future farmers will all be covered in these non-governmental events.  A huge focus of many of the environmental groups and climate activists attending the conference is mobilizing citizens globally to help them become more aware of climate issues and hold governments accountable to implementing policies to combat climate change.


Two sites we found particularly interesting was the interactive documentary site Climate Under Pressure produced by TV5 Monde and Surging Seas: Mapping Choices an interactive website produced by the environmental advocacy group Climate Central.


Climate Under Pressure allows users to explore climate change issues through the animated storylines of six different individuals across the world.  Users make choices for the characters in a number of scenarios following personal storylines. The choices are related to the character’s individual impact on the climate and result in an ongoing score the documentary calls, “Personal Climate Risk Level”.  Before making a choice users get to watch interviews with academics and policy experts about different climate change issues. Each adventure is beautifully illustrated and well written.

The second site Surging Seas: Mapping Choices is a powerful tool, which uses data generated from peer-reviewed and published scientific research from the organization Climate Central. The online tool allows users to visually compare how a global coastal area will be affected by different carbon emissions and warming scenarios which lead to sea level rise.  Users can examine sea level rise at two different time points 2050 and 2100 or from different emission scenarios ranging from “Unchecked Pollution” to “Extreme Carbon Cuts”.  We examined scenarios for Beirut, Lebanon in 2100.  The map on the left shows “Unchecked Pollution” with large sections of Beirut being submerged underwater and the right side of the map showing “Extreme Carbon Cuts” with minimal submersion of Beirut’s coastline.


Overall we found both websites effective tools for educating users on both the threats of climate change as well as individual things they can do to reduce their carbon footprint.  For addressing such a large scale global issue as climate change with it’s multiple layers of interconnections, interactive media is a key tool being used by leading environmental groups.


By Dave Thatcher

Dave is currently a student Metropolitan State University of Denver focusing on convergent journalism and multimedia advocacy studies. He has a strong interest in emerging digital storytelling techniques and new ways to achieve audience engagement and social impact through multimedia. Prior to his multimedia studies, Dave spent several years working in the field of refugee resettlement in the United States. Additionally he worked abroad in Sub-Saharan Africa as protections specialist for human rights defenders. In his spare time, Dave can be found wandering the winding streets of Istanbul in search of the perfect cup of coffee.

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