James Renwick from Raumati has been awarded the prestigious Prime Minister's 2018 Science Communication Prize.

A professor in the School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences at Victoria University of Wellington, James received the $100,000 prize for his outstanding communication about the science behind our changing climate and how it will affect the future.

"I was amazed, honoured and blown away to receive the award.

"I am part of a large community of scientists and communicators and rely on a very wide network of scientists and researchers so I'm really taking this award on behalf of the community."


James started his career as a weather forecaster for the Meteorological Service, later transferring to NIWA (National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research) before joining Victoria University of Wellington in 2012.

Over the past five years James has been involved in more than 100 public presentations about climate change, given more than 200 media interviews and presented at numerous conferences on climate change and how to mitigate its effects.

"I've presented to many different groups, I lecture on climate change for a job so I present to a lot of students but also to industry professionals and smaller groups such as Rotary, Probus and at events such as the Kāpiti Electra Business Breakfast."

Being awarded the prize for communication, James shares his research on climate variability, climate change and weather and climate prediction in a way people can easily understand.

"I try to accept every invitation that comes my way.

"Everywhere I present there is an interest there, but not everyone is especially knowledgeable.

"Climate change is being talked about in ways we haven't seen before.

"It's much more on the public's mind because the world is actually changing and we are starting to see the facts in the change around us.

"I do feel a sense of duty to tell the world about the science behind climate change, how I see the consequences unfolding, and the need for action, which is urgent.

"The more opportunities people have to understand what is going on the better, as it is only when enough of us demand action that we are going to get it."

While he has been undertaking public engagement for around 20 years, James said demand for his contribution has grown significantly in the past three or four years as people become increasingly concerned about climate change.

"The most common question I get is 'what can I do?'

"The answer I give is that if everybody does the small things, like reduce the amount they drive and their consumption of meat, it will add up.

"But I also say it shouldn't be just down to individuals," he said.

"People need to tell their political representatives that they want change.

"If enough people speak up, the message will get through."

James plans to use the funds from the prize to build collaborations on climate change between artists and scientists.

He recently took part in a national speaking tour for the Track Zero Charitable Trust which brings climate scientists and local artists together in communities around the country.

"The Trust sees artistic expression is a way of connecting with people's emotions, with the heart rather than the head.

"A partnership between science and the arts is another way of reaching new audiences and inspiring people to take action."