Associate Professor Cassandra Star

20042021

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Research Biography

Passion, Politics and Climate Change

It might seem strange that a political scientist, who began her academic life as a natural scientist, now specialises in all things policy and politics in relation to climate and sustainability. But for Associate Professor Cassandra Star, climate change has always been the enduring theme in her education.

“When I was a naïve (but passionate) 18-year-old studying a Bachelor of Science degree I thought I could become an atmospheric chemist and solve climate change. In those days climate change was only just beginning to have a public and political profile. But In the third year of my degree, not far into studying a topic on environmental policy, I had a light bulb moment. I realised that the climate change problem isn’t a scientific one. You can come up with a solution or a fix for climate change, but it doesn’t mean anything if you can’t convince people to do anything about it. That moment re-framed the issue of climate change as a political one for me. From that day forward my career moved into understanding the politics and policy of climate change and how to use that understanding to make a difference.

The purpose of my research is to bring attention to strategies, processes and tools that can improve the outcomes and the effectiveness of climate policy to those that can use them – policymakers, decision-makers and groups that seek to  influence these decisions”.

At Flinders University Cassandra leads the Climate and Sustainability Policy Research (CASPR) group. The group is currently working on a number of research programs, with one funded by the Department of Defence, called the Climate Resilience Project. Climate-related defence challenges in the Northern Hemisphere centre on issues such as the potential for ice-free winter navigation of the Arctic Ocean. However, the Climate Resilience Project focuses on issues in the Australian neighbourhood. Countries in the Indo-Pacific face potential submersion, so require help to increase their capacity to confront a climate changed future.

One of Cassandra’s key concerns is what might flow from the destabilisation which will follow environmental disasters in the Pacific Ocean. There are clear implications in human cost, as well as the security ramifications for Australia and its interests.

“If you look at what might be the first five countries projected to disappear based on climate change modelling, those five are all in the Pacific,” says Cassandra. “But countries will become non-viable before they physically disappear due to saltwater intrusion into their fresh water supplies.

Those changes to the political status quo in the region will require our own government departments and agencies to be well coordinated and ready to co-operate with each other to support our regional neighbours. CASPR provides guidance to these departments and how they might respond and is also working on identifying how our neighbours can develop climate resilience in readiness for what is to come”.

Closer to home CASPR is also working on a climate adaptation project examining the experiences and readiness of local government councils in South Australia to deal with climate change, among a variety of other climate policy, adaptation and disaster response projects.

Prior to coming to Flinders, Associate Professor Star worked at Griffith University, the University of Southern Queensland and the University of Queensland. She has been awarded over $1m in competitive funding to conduct her research and published over 60 scholarly articles and is a widely respected researcher in her field. In addition, she has been awarded visiting appointments and esteemed fellowships, including by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Simon Fraser University (Vancouver) and the Australian National University.

She is regularly sought after to provide advice and professional development services to state and federal government agencies including the South Australian Department of State Development, ReturnToWorkSA and HealthWorkforce Australia. She has chaired government boards, including for the Department of Education and Child Development. Casandra provides significant leadership within political science nationally and internationally, including convening the Environmental Politics and Policy Standing Committee for the Australian Political Science Association.

Cassandra believes in the power of education for social and political change and values the opportunity to work with public sector leaders and emerging social change agents to identify ways to ensure a safer climate future. She is equally passionate about educating future policy, political and climate scientists and this is reflected in her eight teaching awards across her career, including two highly competitive and prestigious National Citations for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning from the Office of Learning and Teaching and being awarded Research Higher Degree Supervisor of the Year (for the College of Business, Government and Law) in 2020. 

Research Interests

  • Environmental policy and politics
  • Climate change policy and politics
  • Climate activism in Western democracies
  • Global environmental issues
  • Green political theory

External positions

Convenor - Environmental Politics and Policy research group, Australian Political Studies Association

2017 → …

Strategic Advisory Committee, Institute of Public Administration SA

20172020

Chair, Outer Southern Integrated Community Action Networks (ICAN) management committee, Department of Education and Child Development (SA)

20112014

Keywords

  • JA Political science (General)
  • Climate politics
  • Climate policy
  • Climate adaptation
  • Environmental politics
  • Environmental policy
  • Comparative politics
  • Comparative policy

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