By applying theories of rhetorical criticism to the arguments in the viral, and controversial, New York Magazine cover piece “The Uninhabitable Earth” by David Wallace-Wells, this study evaluated the dominant frames, appeals and persuasive narratives utilized in the article. In vivid brush strokes, “The Uninhabitable Earth” painted eight scenes of apocalyptic horror that climate change will bring to our civilization, from toxic smog that will smother cities, to deadly heat waves that could kill thousands near the equator, and even total societal collapse because of the economic cost of climate change. The article became an overnight and controversial success, and shortly after publishing, New York Magazine reported the piece had become the most read article in the history of the publication. Capturing the public’s attention with messages of climate change is immediately important in the face of the threat of global warming. As science communicators and climate scientists struggle to effectively communicate the risks of climate change to the general public, a cross-disciplinary understanding of exemplary communication events is essential to furthering the field of climate change communication. The analysis drew conclusions to the research question: is “The Uninhabitable Earth” a persuasive apocalyptic climate change narrative? The rhetorical evaluation of this prominent article added another dimension of understanding of climate rhetoric in the emerging field of science communication. The apocalyptic narrative, metaphor and appeals of the article were effective, and have been used in similar climate change communication to the same end.

Student Major Department

The Communication Department



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