We investigated the visual and iconic representations of Global Climate Changes (GCC) typically used by communication means and the meaning of GCC in the realm of common sense. Little is known about the indicators that predict people's engagement with environmental questions such as GCC and about the most effective communication strategies to promote such engagement. Our basic question relates to the relationship between images and GCC, considering the intense exploration of the theme by media and, on the other hand, the shallow appropriation of the subject by the population in general, as verified in previous studies.

We asked 117 university students, of the courses of Geography, Ecology, and Social Communication to answer a questionnaire containing (open and closed) questions about environmental care and the visual representations of GCC. The question on environmental care intended to find out whether the participants practiced (currently or in the past) actions of care for the environment; in case of a positive answer, such practice should be briefly described.

In regard to the iconic visual representations of GCC, the respondent had to consider the first image she/he would associate to the theme of GCC. It was up to the participant to respond the question with text, drawing, or both. The content analysis of such answers took into consideration categories established in accordance to the most frequently themes related to GCC, as pointed out in the literature.

The analysis demonstrated that in fact there was no unanimous choice of iconic representation of GCC among the participants. In addition, the majority of respondents mentioned representations in a geographic scale distant from the context of their lives, expressing the phenomenon as a remote problem, at the global level, alien to the local level, in which mitigation actions could be conceived and implemented.

Our findings indicate the need of a perspective different from the that is presently imposed by the media. Images of environmental catastrophes, with fatalistic connotation, have contributed very little to the interest and engagement of people in actions of mitigation, frequently causing an aversion for the theme, because the implied threat does not motivate thoughts of capacity and effectiveness. The reflexion upon the theme should integrate the affective and the informational spheres in an efficient and positive manner, to bring an incentive towards the social engagement so important for a satisfactory way out of the problem of GCC.