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Capturing Climate Change

When it comes to climate change, there are more questions than there are answers. How do you explain the big-picture risks of subtle changes like rising sea levels, fluctuating crop yields and shifts in ocean currents — and, more important, how do you make people care? One solution: with photographs. But photographer Joshua Wolfe is convinced that for the purpose of illustrating climate change, polar bears and penguins just won't cut it.

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Wolfe and NASA climatologist Dr. Gavin Schmidt recently published a collection of scientific essays and photographs in a book called Climate Change: Picturing the Science. The aim is to shed light on a complex problem and make it both accessible and important to the public. It's a compilation of scientific (but readable) essays, mostly by scientists from Columbia University's Earth Institute. And it's illustrated by not only photographs but also diagrams and satellite images.

It's hard to believe that for a subject as trendy as climate change, there are so few photographers who specialize in it. As Wolfe explained, it's a topic that defies journalism's typical demands of daily deadlines and breaking news. "It's a very hard story to cover," he said, "because it's so huge and so slow, and it's one that doesn't really fit the way we gather news. ... That, and none of us make any money."

But it's an important subject, and Wolfe and Schmidt make a compelling case that we should care. There are a few penguins in the book, and one polar bear, but also much more. Here's a peek at some of the book's imagery, provided by a team of photographers devoted to capturing climate change.

By Claire O'Neill

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