As the winner of the 2018 Prime Minister’s Science Communication Prize, James hopes to use more emotive methods, such as art, to better engage with the wider public about the complexities of the issue.
“If we want environmental issues to resonate with people, we need to connect with their hearts and minds in a different way,” he says. “Artistic expression, like music, songs, and artworks, can be a great way to do that.”
James, a climate scientist and head of the University’s School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences, was awarded the prestigious science communication prize valued at $100,000 at an event at Parliament in March. The award judges praised James’s warmth, humour, and positivity when dealing with the issue.
In the past five years, James has been involved in more than 100 public presentations, given more than 200 media interviews, and presented at numerous conferences. This includes leading the organising committee for the 2016 and 2018 Pacific Climate Change Conferences, co-hosted by the University. He has contributed to the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which informs global agreements on climate change action, and is currently a convening lead author for the next IPCC assessment report that is due in 2021.
Some of James’s prize money, which is partly designated for science communication activities, will be used to help build collaborations between scientists and artists, including continued support of the Track Zero Charitable Trust, which brings together climate scientists and local artists around the country.
“I feel humbled and privileged,” says James. “If winning this award helps to further the conversation around taking action on climate change, then that’s fantastic. All I really want to see is us getting on top of the problem and avoiding the worst possible future.”