Global warming superstar Bill McKibben at Sydney Ideas

31 May 2013

Bill McKibben: "Climate change, after all, is basically a big maths problem."
Bill McKibben: "Climate change, after all, is basically a big maths problem."

"The massive expansion of coal mining and export in Australia, praised by Labor and Liberal politicians, is enough to take the planet beyond the point of no return on global warming if it were to go ahead," says Bill McKibben, one of the world's leading climate change thinkers.

Globally acclaimed writer, educator, activist and founder of climate group, Bill McKibben is heading to Australia as the first international stop in his 'Do the Maths' speaking tour. His Sydney Ideas talk on Tuesday 4 June at the Seymour Centre is his first public appearance in the country.

The tour, which was a massive success across the USA, is taking the fossil fuel industry head-on with a divestment campaign that has already seen hundreds of campuses, communities and local governments withdraw investments from polluting coal and gas industries.

"Climate change, after all, is basically a big maths problem, involving the quantity of carbon we wish to burn and the capacity of the atmosphere to contain it," says McKibben.

The simple maths adds up to a terrifying reality. The fossil fuel industry currently has 2,795 gigatons of carbon in its reserves, five times the 565 gigatons the world can safely emit to keep warming below the internationally agreed 2°C target.

"The numbers make it clear that the fossil fuel industry is now a rogue industry, willing to pour five times more carbon into the atmosphere than even the most conservative governments think is safe. They're outlaws against the laws of physics.

"If it's wrong to wreck the climate, it is wrong to profit from that wreckage," McKibben says.

The talk, co-presented by the University of Sydney and Sydney Ideas, will elaborate on McKibben's landmark Rolling Stone article, 'Global Warming's Terrifying New Math', said to be one of the most read articles in the magazine's history.

Professor David Schlosberg, from the Sydney Network on Climate Change and Society, will introduce McKibben's evening on the Sydney Ideas stage. "He is one of the major forces in American environmentalism, an incredibly successful campaigner, a great writer, journalist and academic," he says.

"The basic argument he is bringing to Australia is the argument that he has put forward in the US - that there are carbon-based fuels that should not be dug out of the ground. We cannot burn our coal without going over the 2°C of climate change the international community has agreed to," says Professor Schlosberg, from the Department of Government and International Relations in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.

Event details

What: Global warming: do the maths, Bill McKibben at Sydney Ideas 

When: 6pm, Tuesday 4 June

Where: Seymour Centre, Corner of City Road and Cleveland Street, Sydney 

Cost: $20, concession $15, University of Sydney students, staff and alumni free (limited offer and registration essential)

Bookings: Tickets for the Sydney Ideas talk are selling out quickly. To book visit the Seymour Centre website.

For more information about the tour visit the Australian site. 

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Media enquiries: Kath Kenny, 02 9351 1584, 0478 303 173,