The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change states that climate change will have far reaching impacts across society and is clearly being driven by greenhouse gas emissions. Despite this, there is a large disconnect between society and climate science that must be bridged if we are to engage citizens with the realities of climate change and have societal buy-in to the systemic carbon reductions required to mitigate against this climate crisis. There are nuanced reasons why society is not engaging with climate change, but a lack of access to science and a poor understanding of the processes and impacts are problematic.
Consequently, scientists need to go beyond the normal scientific discourse and create imaginative ways to communicate their science to the public. Critically exciting approaches should include collaborations with artists who are experts at communicating abstract concepts to society, where their applied and participatory research methods enable thought provoking open engagement and can lead to cultural change. Currently, the clearest indicator of climate change is the ice loss from glaciers and ice sheets.
Given the potential sea level rise, which will displace coastal communities across the globe, it is important to work out their future trajectory in a warming world. An established way of doing this is to investigate the geological imprint of the last Ice Age, which shows how ice sheets grow and decay as a result of climate change. The Irish landscape and its surrounding continental shelf, contains one of the best preserved geological records of former ice sheet behaviour and Investigations here have recently established the growth and decay patterns of the last ice sheet as a result of climate change (Dunlop et al., 2010, Benetti et al., 2010, O’Cofaigh et al., 2019). This location will be the focus for this interdisciplinary project, which will bridge the societal knowledge gap by taking scientific knowledge of climate change obtained from this region and communicate this through art processes. Artists are increasingly responding to the wider context of climate change e.g. Vatnajökull (Patterson, 2007) communicated the live sound of glacial melt to people’s mobile phones, and Ice Watch (Oliasson, 2018) situated large melting glacial ice-blocks in city environments.
Artists have been instrumental in contributing not only to the widening and deepening of public engagement and public activism (Burning Ice: Art and Climate Change, McEwan, 2017) but also in fostering new thinking and establishing protean practices which engage the dramatic current conditions of uncertainty and act towards systemic cultural change (Springer, 2012).
Such creative research-practices can stimulate deeper engagement with the specific geographical study of ‘tell-tale’ geological environments that this project will research. This research context provides rich possibilities for experimental art practices to directly access the fieldwork sites (via land and sea), the scientific data and the key findings of this area of climate change research. Our interdisciplinary approach facilitates innovative and experimental art-based research, exploring these critically timely issues from new perspectives using unorthodox creative methods that are open-ended yet vitally public engaging towards cultural and systemic change.
This PhD is funded by DfE and is one of twelve Interdisciplinary awards from across the University, following an internal competition for proposals between two distinct research units and with impact potential.
The scholarship will cover tuition fees at the Home rate and a maintenance allowance of £15,009 per annum for three years. EU applicants will only be eligible for the fee’s component of the studentship (no maintenance award is provided). For Non-EU nationals the candidate must be “settled” in the UK. This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.