Climate crusader Anna Rose to speak at Sydney Connections Breakfast

1 May 2012

Meet climate change activist and University of Sydney alumna Anna Rose at the next Sydney Connections Breakfast.
Meet climate change activist and University of Sydney alumna Anna Rose at the next Sydney Connections Breakfast.

Prominent climate change activist, Anna Rose, will speak at the Sydney Connections Breakfast next Thursday 10 May about the latest episode in her mission to spread the word about global warming.

Last year Anna, 28, the co-founder of the Australian Youth Climate Coalition, was approached to participate in a television documentary with an idea as simple as it was confronting: travel around the world with Nick Minchin, the former senator and committed climate change sceptic, both choosing experts and commentators to visit, and try to change the other person's mind.

The result was a documentary, which aired on the ABC last week, and a book, Madlands: A Journey to Change the Mind of a Climate Sceptic (published by Melbourne University Press).

Anna's talk is the first of this year's Sydney Connections Breakfast series, which feature orations by University of Sydney alumni who inspire, inform and invite discussion, and are a great opportunity to catch up with old and new friends and colleagues, over a delicious breakfast with plenty of 'food for thought'.

Anna is also a participant in the University's What Matters community engagement campaign which brings together people from across the University's spectrum to talk about how their work has made a difference in the world.

Members of the public are invited to indicate whether issues highlighted on the site matter to them and find out more about these issues through video interviews with specialist 'leading light' academics or graduates. See Anna's What Matters contribution now. 

Anna and Nick Minchin, who was already chosen by the production company making the documentary, went off travelling for four weeks. "I had never met Nick Minchin before and I never expected to travel the world with a man who thought so differently about the climate to me.

"On a personal level we got on well. But Nick is extreme in his views. Before our trip, he had argued climate change was more like a religion, an evangelical mission," says Anna.

But he did shift his position, albeit a little. "In the end he accepted that greenhouse gases led to global warming. He accepted the basics of climate science - the link between CO2 and global warming. He accepted that the world has warmed and human emissions of CO2 probably made some contribution to that.

"I felt that was a step forward."

Anna admits the pair also found some common ground during their journey. "At the end of the doco we both agreed that a move away from coal-based energy made sense, for health and economic (job creation) reasons.

"But we disagreed on the time-frame: I thought it should be in his life-time. He thought it should happen in my lifetime.

"Most of my experts were scientists, although I started with my uncle, a farmer in Moree (in northern NSW) who had seen the direct impact of climate change in the rain patterns on his property.

"Nick only had two scientists; most of his people were bloggers. There was often tension between who we thought we had responsibility to trust: scientists with evidence, or people whose opinions were not based on any evidence, but on doubt and questions.

"I took Nick to see an oceanographer with the US Navy, who told us that he used to be a sceptic but after looking at the evidence, came to the conclusion that sea levels would rise by one metre by the end of the century. That has massive implications for millions of people's lives.

"Then Nick took me to see a blogger who said sea levels were dropping. This, and other similar experiences, made the journey difficult."

However, Anna said she did learn something from the trip, and her exchanges with Minchin. "I learned about the uncertainty of science. We will never know every single answer to every single question," she says.

"But we do know enough to act, she stresses. "As a famous general once said: 'if you wait for 100 percent certainty on the battlefield, soldiers will die'."

Event details

What: Sydney Connections Breakfast with Anna Rose 

When: 7.15 to 8.45am, Thursday 10 May

Where: Four Seasons Hotel, 199 George Street, Sydney

Cost: $35 for University of Sydney alumni, staff and students

Register online now 

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Media enquiries: Sarah Stock, 02 9114 0748, 0419 278 715,