Now or Never: A Sustainable Future for Australia?

Tim Flannery
29 September, 2008

Why you should listen

Tim Flannery

Internationally acclaimed environmentalist Professor Tim Flannery returns to the Sydney Ideas stage with solutions to one of the most pressing issues of our time – climate change. In this “call to arms” lecture, Flannery reviews the key climate changes indicators, in particular the changes in the arctic ice cap, which he says could result in an “ice-free arctic at some point in the next 30 years or perhaps as little as within the next five years.” Ominously he adds: “These projections are really beyond anything that any computer modelling can simulate.” However, at Sydney Ideas Flannery concentrates on possible solutions to the problem at a time when workable ideas are rare. He canvasses two key solutions: clean coal technologies – particularly important in the high-polluting developing countries of India and China – and “atmospheric cleansing” through tropical reforestation and biochar technology. Atmospheric cleansing, said the best-selling author, includes “a basket of approaches to this problem that gives us very great hope that we can deal with the problem despite the lateness of the day and the scale of the problem.” Flannery, the 2007 Australian of the year, called on the Government to introduce at 10% levy on coal exports in order to give “that industry a future” by investing in clean coal. Australia could lead the way in this technology and “transfer it to China and other countries” with the aim of retro-fitting carbon plants. Professor Flannery is an international leader in climate change and has published many scientific papers and more than a dozen books including the best-selling The Weather Makers, Throwim Way Leg and An Explorer’s Notebook. He is the former director of the South Australian Museum and is currently a professor at Sydney’s Macquarie University. He also chairs the Copenhagen Climate Council and is Australian vice-chairman of The Climate Group.

“I think that there's now a better than even chance that, despite our best efforts, in the coming two or three decades Earth's climate system will pass the point of no return”Tim Flannery in Now or Never: A Sustainable Future for Australia?