Political Science, Research

Political science prof Michael Howlett named Canada Research Chair in Policy Innovation for Climate Change

May 03, 2018

by Christine Lyons

Today, SFU political science professor Michael Howlett, who specializes in public policy analysis, political economy, and resource and environmental policy, is among the top researchers named by the Government of Canada to pursue world-class research at post-secondary institutions across the country.  

The Canada Research Chairs Program invests approximately $265 million per year to attract and retain some of the world’s most accomplished and promising minds.

 "Our new chair holders aim to generate research insights that will benefit the world we live in—for social good, and for the betterment of our environment," says Joy Johnson, SFU's vice-president, research and international. "The CRC program provides SFU’s research leaders with the support they need to focus on building robust research programs for real world impact."

Today, global leaders are striving to understand not only the science of climate change itself but also the impact of policies driven by climate change in a world where—despite mounting evidence to the contrary—many still deny the threat that climate change poses.

"A long-standing observation in the policy sciences is that problems come in different shapes and sizes with some being much more difficult to deal with than others,” says Howlett, who also holds a professorship with the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore.

“Such is the case with climate change. Some colleagues of mine at Yale and the University of Toronto have labelled climate change issues as "super-wicked" in that they are not only difficult to parse but also highly politically charged and time sensitive.”

In his role as a CRC chair, Howlett will tackle urgent questions around climate-change policy alongside his international academic colleagues.

“I will continue to work with colleagues in the U.K., Germany, Russia, Hong Kong and Singapore. We’ll be examining a range of issues around policy design and government capacity. And we’ll be learning from the experiences of governments that have succeeded in overcoming the difficult nature of these types of issues and have constructed innovative solutions to problems of this kind."  

“On behalf of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, I’m proud to congratulate Dr. Howlett on being named Canada Research Chair in Policy Innovation for Climate Change,” says Jane Pulkingham, faculty dean.

 “In today’s geopolitical context, where addressing climate change is a top priority for many leaders worldwide, we urgently need researchers like Dr. Howlett to help us understand what works and what doesn’t in creating climate change policy. We need to know how and which policies have been successful—or not—in shaping our actions and attitudes toward caring for the environment, whether it’s policy around personal behaviours like recycling and composting or governmental policies that address things like greenhouse gas emissions and resource development. Dr. Howlett’s research will bring SFU and the Faculty of Arts S and Social Sciences into the global conversation on these matters and provide reliable information and innovative thinking on climate change policy.”

More about Michael Howlett:

With a PhD from Queen’s University, Howlett joined SFU’s Department of Political Science in 1989, becoming a full professor in 1999. Over his career, he has established himself as an expert in his field. He has authored, co-authored and edited numerous books on Canadian and international public policy, natural resource and environmental policy, and sustainability. He has published articles in journals across Canada, the United States, Europe, Latin America, Asia and Australia and New Zealand. He is a founding member of the British Columbia Political Studies Association and served on the executive of associations like the International Political Science Association. He also has a dedicated track record of serving on many editorial boards including the Canadian Journal of Political Science, World Political Science Review, Forest Policy and Economics, and the International Review of Public Administration, to name but a few.