INTERNSHIP: Visual Arts and Climate Change Adaptation

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While studying on our Masters programme in History of Art, MSc Collecting and Provenance student Justyna Ładosz is completing an internship with local charity Creative Carbon Scotland. Here she tells us about her experience.

Over the last six months I have been working as the Arts and Adaptation Research Intern for Creative Carbon Scotland (CCS). CCS is a charity working across Scotland, which aims to increase collaboration between the cultural and sustainability sectors. My job was to create a report that would illuminate the current position of Visual Art Organisations in relation to climate change and adaptation, and develop a programme of possible adaptation strategies and advice that was applicable to the Visual Arts sector. It was recognised by CCS that while many organisations engage with climate change on a mitigation level (reducing greenhouse gas emissions by reducing their energy and water use, reducing travel by car and plane, and going ‘plastic free’), not many are preparing for the climate change already happening. There was therefore a need to know how resilient the sector is and what adaptation strategies will be most suitable to it.

Why adapt? The most recent IPCC report (Intragovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2018) emphasised that:

“Warming from anthropogenic emissions from the pre-industrial period to the present will persist for centuries to millennia and will continue to cause further long-term changes in the climate system, such as sea level rise, with associated impacts.”

(IPCC 2018: A.2).

The current mitigation fight is to stop the rate of global warming before it reaches 2°C (IPCC 2018: A.3). Basically, our climate will change no matter how much we reduce carbon emissions; but we do have control over the extent of the change. Even if carbon emissions would suddenly stop on a global scale right now, our climate would still change. This is not to say that we should abandon mitigation, as there is a stark difference in impacts on human societies and the globe between warming of 1.5°C and warming of 2°C. The report I am writing simply recognises that the warming is already happening and is something we must prepare for. The easiest way to identify the impact of climate change is to identify vulnerabilities one is currently facing. Climate change will amplify most of these.

Over the past six months, I conducted interviews with stakeholders in the Visual Arts sector, which enabled me to understand the needs and particular challenges of the sector much better. This was vital and allowed me to choose adaptation recommendations for the report which will actually be useful to the sector. While it was encouraging to see how many organisations were engaging with climate change and were passionate about mitigation, it also became clear that the sector will face many challenges in the future. Visual Arts organisations have unique aims, which can be summarised as facilitation of the creation of art, safeguarding the art, and engaging people with the art. Each of these aims has particular vulnerabilities which will be impacted by climate change. The operational model of VAOs means that they are often working on a big scale, but have small numbers of staff. Largely charitable organisations, they rely on donations, grants and public funding and they are not focused on profit. Indeed, the lack of finances emerged as one of the key obstacles.

During this time, I have also been conducting ‘desk-based’ research, trawling through scholarly articles on climate change, global warming, sustainability, resilience and adaptation methods. I have also consulted countless numbers of government, NGO and organizational reports, looking for adaptation recommendations that would be applicable to visual arts organisations. The project will culminate in a report on recommendations such as importance of monitoring and maintenance, the importance of disaster protocols, inclusion of green spaces, and many others, to be published soon by CCS. The main message which emerged from my research is behavioural change is required. In other words, VAOs and our society at large needs to adapt the way we live and function.


IPCC, 2018. ‘Summary for Policymakers’ In: Global warming of 1.5°C. An IPCC Special Report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty [V. Masson-Delmotte, P. Zhai, H. O. Pörtner, D. Roberts, J. Skea, P.R. Shukla, A. Pirani, W. Moufouma-Okia, C. Péan, R. Pidcock, S. Connors, J. B. R. Matthews, Y. Chen, X. Zhou, M. I. Gomis, E. Lonnoy, T. Maycock, M. Tignor, T. Waterfield (eds.)]. World Meteorological Organization, Geneva, Switzerland, 32 pp. Available at:

LINK: European Environment Agency – Climate change adaptation in cities

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