It's a contentious area, and I only really know of Bill McKibben who has really grappled with the subject - through two articles he wrote for Grist Magazine (one from 2005 and his follow up in 2009 called "Four years after my pleading essay, climate art is hot!"
His enthusiasm for all artists out there who are tackling climate change through their work is infectious, and he has channeled this enthusiasm via his group 350.org
(a reference to the "safe upper limist of" atmospheric CO2 concentration in parts per million in order to maintain a stable climate). I hadn't heard of him before, but since reading his two articles have noticed that he's got a facebook group and that the 350.org activities are dispersed globally.. wonder if we can get him to come to C|F at COP15?
But his approach is a type of 'activist' art which has a social mission, to raise awareness and bring about behavioural change. It's only a small proportion of the entire global arts and cultural industry which needs to be mobilised to get us all to reflect on our (developed world) consumerist, disposable culture and behaviour... It's a bit Chomsky-esque to believe that art can influence us through subconscious messages, and for eons social scientists have produced research that shows that we can be critical in what we culturally 'consume'. But I still believe we are largely spoonfed our consumerist values via the social channels we most often rely on, and if that is pop culture and media then... product placement in films and tv shows (sex and the city!), aspirational messages of lifestyle, socio-economic status, values and even beauty... it all gets complicated.
Clearly art isn't the only thing that needs to change in order to change the behaviour and values of the 5 billion of us on earth - but we're playing our part as should politicians, businesses, individuals, schools, media companies and farmers.
Funny though that I can't stop thinking about David Attenborough's commentary in the BBC documentary 'Life' where he talks about how mammals have a unique and fantastic ability to adapt to any environmental conditions as a result of of cognitive functions. I wonder which we will end up doing first?