Photo of Chris Russill

Chris Russill

Associate Professor, School of Journalism and Communication

Degrees:B.A., M.A. (York) and Ph.D. (Penn State)
Phone:613-520-2600 x 7415

On Sabbatical  July 1, 2021 – June 30, 2022


Chris Russill is an Associate Professor in the School of Journalism and Communication at Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada. Chris is interested in political (in)action around climate change and in the dangers, harms, and injustices that are distributed by this problem.

He is Editor of the Canadian Journal of Communication, an independent, peer-reviewed, open access journal that has published continuously since 1974 and reshaped the field of communication several times along the way! He is also an Associate Editor at Science and Environmental Communication and serves on the boards of Environmental Communication, Palgrave Studies in Media and Environmental Communication, and Communication Undisciplined. He teaches classes in Climate Change + Communication and contributes to the new Collaborative Specialization in Climate Change (you can do this degree in our communication program!).

Chris co-edited Critical Approaches to Climate Change and Civic Action with Anabela Carvalho and Julie Doyle, a collection exploring the relationship of conceptual invention and material politics in the climate movement. He has also edited Earth Observing Media, a collection engaging with the politics of Google Earth, digital globes, drones, radar, sonar, GPS, migration, missile photography, and satellite imaging.

Chris completed his Ph.D. in communication at Penn State, and his M.A. and B. A. at York University in Toronto. He is a former fellow at the Balsillie School of International Affairs, and a founding member of the International Environmental Communication Association and Carleton Climate Commons.


Chris’ research engages with the temporal dimensions of climate change from media theoretical and historical perspectives. He traces how climate change is conceptualized across a range of domains and problems (scientific inquiry, software design, visual culture, political regulation, racialized inequality, computational simulation, and popular culture) to engage with the temporal assumptions structuring our sense of danger, harm, violence, and crisis.

Chris’ book project, The Warning, offers a new understanding of climate change by embracing the history and temporality of catastrophism as worthy of study. It diverges from the consensus-centric epistemology of science-first and intergovernmental cooperation paradigms to emphasize how the relationship of climate science, catastrophe, and social change has varied historically and in concert with the changing relationships of communication and politics in western liberal democracies. Instead of organizing an account of climate change with respect to the categories that underpinned its scientific detection (like changes in CO2 concentration and global mean surface temperature since pre-industrial levels) or those of global economic policy frameworks, Chris develops the categories organizing our ontology of climate change from the history and persistence of catastrophe. Told through a series of historical vignettes that include budworm spraying and moth epidemics, experiments in bystander indifference, computer modeling of nuclear winter, the relationship of ‘broken windows’ policing to network theories of viral influence, the influence of white flight on tipping point logics of social change, and public memories of slavery, holocaust, and totalitarian rule, he develops a pre-history of the politics of climate change and catastrophe that defines our contemporary moment. Coming soon!

You can find a conversation here with Armond Towns on Black Studies and/as Media Theory that takes up a few of these questions with respect to nature, inhabitation, planetary humanism, and Blackness in the context of Armond’s brilliant media philosophy.

You can find a conversation here with John Durham Peters on the Anthropocene, the planetary, media techniques, and the digital.

Here is a rambunctious discussion of the planetary, GAIA, and other matters with University of Toronto media theorist, Kate Maddalena.

podcast with CBC journalist and Carleton alumni, Sherry Aske, as we sort through earth observing media after Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Starts around 7:55 – just listen for Riders on the Storm!

Recent Publications

Carvalho, A., Russill, C. and Doyle, J. 2021. Critical Approaches to Climate Change and Civic Action. Frontiers: Science and Environmental Communication.

Russill, C. 2020. Bunkering #4. Heliotrope. Environmental Media Lab.

Wall, J. T. and Russill, C. 2018. Climate Change is an Ornery Beast: Visual Culture, Denial, and Fort McMurray. In P. McCurdy (ed.), The Beast: Making a Living on a Dying Planet. University of North Dakota Press. Pp. 25-38.

Russill, C. 2018. The ‘Danger’ of Consensus Messaging: The Importance of Shifting from ‘Skeptic-First’ to ‘Migration-First’ Approaches. Frontiers: Science and Environmental Communication.

Russill, C. 2018. Tipping Point. The Companion to Environmental Studies. eds. Noel Castree; Mike Hulme; James Proctor. London: Routledge.