5 May 2016

Tim Flannery: an atmosphere of hope

From Our Changing World, 9:20 pm on 5 May 2016

Ten years Australian scientist and author Tim Flannery warned of the impacts of climate change in The Weather Makers. Last year he published Atmosphere of Hope.

Tim Flannery visited New Zealand for Wanaka's Aspiring Conversations festival last month.

Tim Flannery visited New Zealand for Wanaka's Aspiring Conversations festival last month. Photo: Supplied

Veronika Meduna travelled to Wanaka to ask Tim Flannery what has changed in the last decade and how natural processes could help strip carbon dioxide from the air and the oceans:

Read an edited snapshot of the conversation:

Tim Flannery: Ten years ago, we were at the beginning - or partway through, actually - a period where we were following the worst-case emissions scenario trajectory, the worst possible outcome people could imagine at the time. And we followed that for nearly a decade. Just now we’re starting to come out of that period, I think. We’ve had emissions flat-line for a couple of years so there’s the first glimmer of hope that we may be getting away from that worst case scenario. And of course in between we’ve had one failed attempt at making a global agreement and one successful attempt. So the Paris meeting was a great success. We finally have a global agreement on how to deal with climate change. So perhaps we’re beginning to see the glimmerings of hope now that we couldn’t see ten years ago…

We have to contextualise that in this decade of lost opportunity that we've just passed through – which will have consequences for many, many years.

Veronika Meduna: In your latest book you take quite an optimistic approach. Optimistic is perhaps saying too much, but you are looking an outcome that… we can turn this around.

Tim Flannery: There is a significant amount of damage already done to the climate system and there’s a lot more that we’ve committed to because the accumulations in the atmosphere take time to accumulate the ultimate heat load they can actually maintain. We're in a situation where we’ve done quite a lot of damage, but I do see hope that we won’t go through that worst-case scenario of four degrees plus warming by the end of the century, which would be a catastrophe.

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