It's 2018 And These Climate Change Emojis Are The Cutest And Most Depressing Things Ever

For when there are no words for that starving polar bear.

23 JAN 2018

Talking about climate change is never easy. No matter how much we care about the issue, rising sea levels and cow farts are not exactly a part of our daily dialogue.

But artists Viniyata Pany and Marina Zurkow are trying to change that.


They have launched a set of emojis specifically about climate change, called Climojis. Get it?

"With climate change often the cause and effects are so distant from each other, and the network of these causes are so complex that they almost seem abstract to our everyday mind," Viniyata told Science AF.

"By translating these ideas into emoji form, we are hoping to normalize these ideas and make them prevalent in everyday life, which doesn't happen right now."

The initial idea started when Viniyata was a student at New York University. She and her advisor, Marina, would often have discussions about how to improve climate change communication in the 21st century. Emojis seemed like a good place to start.

To create Climoji, the artists gathered as many perspectives on climate change as they could. They set up workshops at NYU, where they asked students from a variety of different backgrounds how they understand climate change and what it means for them personally.

The result? The cutest and most depressing set of emojis possibly ever.

Untitled designClimojis

"So many people who have used it have said to me: 'It's so funny because it's sad and true,'" Viniyata told us.

And that's exactly the type of conflict the artists were trying to achieve. Once users internalize that emotional conflict and discomfort, Viniyata hopes it will lead to some form of accountability.


Of all the emojis they created, Viniyata says the grey rainbow is her favorite. Rainbows are a universal signifier of hope. But when the color is taken away, she explains, so is that optimism.

"The reason why I think it represents the whole set is that not only is it metaphorical in its grimness, it is very literally what is happening," she told us.


"Air pollution is causing reduced visibility, so we can't see rainbows as well anymore. I think the duality of that particular emoji encompasses everything we are trying to say."

Several of the emojis contain similar double meanings, like the boat emoji, which features the only white person in the set.

Screen Shot 2018 01 22 at 12.25.17 pm

The use of race here is no mistake, and is used to symbolically represent access.

Predominantly non-white, low-income countries are on the frontlines of human-induced climate change. Many millions of people living in the developing world's greatest cities are already feeling the effects of rising sea levels and drought.

In contrast, white people, and symbolically white people, will evade the effects of climate change for longer.

"The people who contribute the most to climate change, are those people who live in bigger cities and are in a more privileged position, both geographically and economically to evade the effects of climate change," said Viniyata.

It's a subtle message for sure, but it's an extremely important one.


The emojis are supposed to be used in whatever way the user wishes - even if it seems superficial.

For instance, the desperate hand could represent someone figuratively drowning in work, but it also reminds us there are more important problems in the world than our heavy workload. In other words, it provides perspective for the problems that seem insurmountable in our daily lives.


Viniyata says the next step is to create a set of icons addressing climate change mitigation and adaptation, which the artists assured us would be less dark and depressing.

But first, they want people to download the first set in greater numbers.

Already, in just two weeks, the climoji set has gone from 400 downloads to over 5,000 downloads.

"It's just wonderful to see how a community that cares about climate change can really push ideas."

You can download Climojis here.