Ph.D. Project: Framing and communicating negative emissions to address climate change

Thursday 12 October 2017

A Ph.D. project is available for an outstanding prospective research student interested in undertaking interdisciplinary climate change research that focuses on communicating the management and reversal of climate change – and, in particular, communicating “negative emissions” – to the general public, policy-makers and other relevant parties.

This project has its applied basis in the recognition that emission-reduction actions, such as those agreed to under the UNFCCC Paris Agreement, are not likely to limit global warming to levels considered acceptable. Indeed, if we wish to limit the worst effects of climate change we must consider the implementation of technologies to reach a state of negative emissions. Achieving negative emissions differs from emissions reductions and mitigation in that negative emissions necessitate the removal of existing greenhouse gases (e.g., carbon dioxide) from the atmosphere. In essence, achieving negative emissions will ensure that more greenhouse gas is removed from the atmosphere than is put in.

Unfortunately, the negative emissions component of the climate-change puzzle has lagged behind other components, not only in the technological pursuits to achieving it, but in the broader political and policy discourse that would support and enable technological pursuits in the first place. In fact, there is currently an important knowledge gap concerning the communication and framing of the meaning and value of negative emissions pursuits. Should we be using the term ‘negative emissions’? How does ‘geoengineering’ make people feel about these options? What about ‘carbon dioxide removal’ or ‘drawdown’? What happens if negative emissions is framed as an economic opportunity versus a means to address climate change? Who are the groups in the public with whom different messages resonate or cause alienation and pushback?

The currently proposed Ph.D. research seeks to fill this knowledge gap. The questions posed above are indicative of the broad themes for the Ph.D. project, with specific research questions and approaches to be defined by the student who undertakes this project. The ultimate aim of this Ph.D. project is to facilitate informed debate among researchers, decision makers, stakeholders, and the public to identify the best options for reaching negative emissions.

The student would be supported by a team across the ANU including:

The primary supervisor will be determined by the best fit for the student in terms of disciplinary and methodological interest and skills (in either the Research School of Psychology or the Australian National Centre for the Public Awareness of Science), with other panel members available to support the interdisciplinary project. As such, the student’s skills and interests will guide the direction of the project.

Prospective students are invited to contact Dr. Bec Colvin ( in the first instance, or other panel members, for more information about this project.

Selection of a student for this project will be based on:

  • The student’s capacity to perform independent research, with evidence of successful completion of research projects (e.g., Honours or Masters research thesis, published research papers).
  • The student’s disciplinary background and research experience, and fit with a primary supervisor (and his or her School at ANU) and other panel members.
  • The student’s research interest and alignment with overarching aims of the Ph.D. project (with specifics to be developed according to student interests).

Ideally, the student will have experience conducting research in the fields of social psychology or communications, or another disciplinary area which provides skills in conducting human research. Prospective students will be invited to develop a (maximum) two page overview of their research experience and interests, a demonstration of their research capacity, and their vision for the research project. This will be submitted along with the student’s CV for consideration by the project panel members.

The student will be required to receive a base scholarship (e.g., domestic or international AGRTP) at the ANU and will be supported to apply for additional supplementary scholarships through competitive schemes, e.g., the recently announced Climate Change Institute supplementary scholarships

Updated:  22 November 2017/Responsible Officer:  Director/Page Contact:  Web Admin