Artist-Scientist Collaborations: Maximising Impact of Climate Research and Increasing Public Engagement

Scientists are under increasing pressure to communicate their findings effectively to decision-makers and undertake public engagement activities. Research councils require researchers to demonstrate the Pathways to Impact of their funding and within the Research Excellence Framework to demonstrate an “effect on, change or benefit to the economy, society, culture, public policy or services, health, the environment or quality of life, beyond academia” (Stern 2014, 43). However, scientists are often ill-equipped or may be restricted by resource and capacity to effectively engage in activities that can ensure the broad dissemination and uptake of their findings. Similarly, adoption of the “information deficit approach” where more information is assumed to lead to better understanding, means the evidence-base on climate change can be abundant yet inaccessible and misaligned with the needs of different audiences. Cross-research collaboration and partnerships with artists could enable knowledge exchange and sharing of experiences to facilitate this. Processes through which scientists engage with the arts provide a unique opportunity to engage with different audiences in meaningful ways to enable scientific evidence on climate change to become salient and relevant, providing more potential to inform decision-making and practices. This commentary explores the science-arts relationship through an analysis of three case studies. “The Prediction Machine,” “A Conversation between Trees,” and “Cold Sun.” We discuss insights that can be gained from these art-science collaborations on climate change. In particular, we explore how these collaborations can support scientists to further enhance salience to climate change and co-produce resilient solutions at different scales, to maximise dissemination of research.

Urban Climate Change and Governance

Most developing countries are expected to be at increased risks of hydrological extremes due to the growing impact of climate change. Because of these concerns, developing countries have already started searching for appropriate solutions. Local actors as drivers must enhance adaptation opportunities for long-term climate change responses. In addition, cities need to govern and manage natural resources, people, and infrastructure as an integrated entity. This study looks at incorporating water sensitive planning practices to enhance climate change impact adaptation. A collaborative institutional model recognised as locally operative and guided nationally could provide the mechanism for governing climate adaptation. The theory of Multi-level Governance is used as a framework for working up local, regional, and national level policies, strategies, and programmes. Colombo, Sri Lanka, and Christchurch, New Zealand, will be considered as case studies in undertaking this research process.

The Demise of the 2009–2010 Climate Bill and the Implications for Future US Climate Policy

This paper explores US congressional resistance to climate change policy. It presents a case study of the 2009–2010 climate bill, which passed narrowly in the US House, only to die as a result of US Senate inaction. The paper employs an analytical framework derived from the writings of US policy scholars such Wilson (1992) and Mayhew (1974), who maintain that the geographical and social distribution of a policy’s costs and benefits will weigh heavily on its prospects for approval by Congress. Noting that one congressional opponent characterized the 2009–2010 climate bill “a declaration of war on the Midwest,” the paper argues that the bill failed largely because the benefits it might have provided were highly diffuse and presently unknowable, while specific regions and industries would have borne a disproportionate share of the costs. The paper concludes that Congress will be more receptive to approaches to climate policy that have precisely the opposite cost/benefit configuration, such as Microsoft founder Bill Gates’ proposal for a crash program of investment in energy science and technology.