Climate change where you’d least expect it

OK, so we know that climate change will sink the Maldives, poison the wells, produce a zombie apocalypse, and quite possibly speed up the neutrino activity of the earth’s core (or was that solar flares? can’t remember). 

But did you also know that it will impact upon our sheds, our ability to reason, our food supply, our newspapers, our Trekkies, and – most surprisingly of all – former Australian Attorney-General H V Evatt? 

I was recently working my way through the Australian Research Council’s list of successful Discovery grants for 2011, which are commencing this year and most of which will run for the next three years. Along the way, I was tickled to see just how far-reaching the impact of climate change will be in Australia. 

In case you hadn’t realised the seriousness of the problem, I thought I’d share these budding projects with you. Names of grantees and institutions have been omitted to protect the innocent, but I have included the FOR, or Field of Research as coded by the ARC, and the total grant monies. Enjoy. 

Physiology: “Abrupt environmental changes can put natural populations at risk of extinction. The project will show to what extent individuals can compensate for temperature changes and thereby render populations resilient to climate change. This research will make theoretical advances and improve the power to predict impacts of future climate change.” ($370,000

Civil Engineering: “This project will develop innovative light gauge steel roofing systems with considerably increased wind resistance and reliable design rules for cold-formed steel codes worldwide. It will contribute to the Australian government’s goal of increasing building resilience against future extreme and more frequent wind events caused by climate change.” ($320,000)

Public Health and Health Sciences: “This study will investigate the effects of extreme heat, increasing temperatures and consequences of climate change, on the population health of rural communities in South Australia. Findings will inform adaptation strategies to prevent an increase in heat-associated and climate change-associated morbidity and mortality in rural areas.” ($122,000 – 2 years)

Political Science: “Commonsense says that claims about how social and political life ought to be arranged must not make infeasible demands. This project will investigate this piece of commonsense and explore its implications for a number of pressing issues, such as climate change, multiculturalism, political participation, inequality, historical justice, and the rules of war.” ($408,587)

Sociology: “We know very little about the ways food security is governed in Australia. This study – the first social-science based study of food security in the nation – will allow us to understand how a multiplicity of agencies come together to ensure the delivery of food, especially at a time of climate change impacts.” ($100,000 – 2 years

Psychology: “Climate change represents a moral challenge to humanity, and one that elicits high levels of emotion. This project examines how emotions and morality influence how people send and receive messages about climate change, and does so with an eye to developing concrete and do-able strategies for positive change.” ($197,302)

Journalism and Professional Writing: “This project will examine the use of news management or ‘spin’ by Australian governments. Is it a legitimate tool of government in the face of a hyper-adversarial news media or a technique which undermines democracy? It will examine ‘spin’ in connection with policies on climate change, economic policy, indigenous policy and asylum seekers policy.” ($95,000)

Literary Studies: “The project will devise and develop a new ‘cultural materialist’ paradigm for science fiction studies and apply it to a case study of science fictional representations of catastrophe, especially nuclear war, plague and extreme climate change.” ($239,000)

Historical Studies: “This project will produce a comprehensive new biography of H.V. Evatt, High Court judge, minister in the 1940s, President of the United Nations General Assembly and leader of the Australian Labor Party opposition during the 1950s. Evatt’s life resonates with modern challenges both of liberty in a time of terror, and of internationalism in a time of global warming.” ($185,000)


Some people. There I was, thinking I’d be kind to the real scientists and leave out all the climate-change ARC-funded projects that could have remotely had some scientific relevance, such as oceanography and atmospheric sciences. 

But I see that Professor Bunyip has also been on the grants trail, and has discovered that the climate change grants bandwagon seems to have stalled temporarily at the University of Queensland’s palaeoecology group.

Philippa Martyr blogs at Transverse City 

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