By Glenda Bartosh
Tim Flannery entered the 950-seat
auditorium at Vancouver’s John Oliver High School to an explosion of applause;
he exited to a moving standing ovation.
Flannery, an internationally
acclaimed scientist and writer from Australia, is the author of the bestseller
Weather Makers: How We are Changing the Climate and What it Means for Life on
. But his Vancouver reception felt
more like one for a hero rather than a scientific writer.
He was in the city Easter Monday as
part of UBC’s Talk of the Town Series and a cross-Canada tour promoting his
book (check out Terry Glavin’s article in the April 13
, one of the few media covering Flannery’s visit.)
The Weather Makers
, endorsed by a litany of scientists and progressive
thinkers, including Prime Minister Tony Blair, Robert Kennedy Junior, and Nobel
Laureate John Polanyi, documents the scientific evidence supporting global
warming and its cause due to man-made greenhouse gases, particularly carbon
) released by burning fossil fuels.
In Monday’s presentation, moderated
by Hal Wake, Flannery emphasized that while scientists are natural skeptics, 90
percent no longer doubt the man-made link to global warming. This is partly due
to irrefutable facts and partly due to “an extraordinary revolution in our
understanding of how the atmosphere works.”
“The science of measurement is all
there — the measurement of signature gases, like CO
measurement of warming and the measurement of weather events… We should now be
moving to a cooling cycle and the only thing that correlates (regarding
warming) is greenhouse gasses. Nothing else does,” he said.
In his 355-page, fact-packed book,
Flannery rounds up the scientific evidence documenting the correlation and
world-wide consequences — the changes in weather at the North and South
Poles that are wreaking havoc with all ecosystems, the destruction of coral
reefs off Australia’s coast, the extinction of species like the golden toad of Costa
Rica, a victim of declining rainfall.
And all this with an average global
temperature increase of only 6/10th of a degree Celsius during the 20th century
But that’s nothing. Flannery predicts
that if we ever-increasing humans carry on with our ever-increasing output of
greenhouse gases, we will trigger an average global temperature increase of 3.5
C during the next 100 years.
It all adds up to a profound warning
about the ensuing damage to life on Earth if we weather-makers carry on with
business as usual — a message that feels tough, almost impossible to
Ocean levels will rise by four metres
by 2050, extreme weather events like Hurricane Katrina will become more
frequent, and the Amazon rainforest could wither away from drought if we insist
on driving CO
-belching cars and SUVs, and continue to rely on
19th-century-style coal-fired plants for electricity (common in hundreds of
nations, including the U.S. and China).
Flannery estimates that we may have
as few as five years, at the most 20, to turn the tide on warming.
The black irony of both his message
and the timing of his visit was not lost on the crowd. They come right on the
heels of the Harper government killing the One Tonne Challenge program and
other climate change initiatives, and 15 programs dedicated to Kyoto research.
In fact, Flannery was supposed to
have met with Environment Minister Rona Ambrose during his Canadian visit. The
meeting was cancelled.
But don’t wait for the politicians,
he urges. Apply people solutions. Otherwise we will be waiting until all hell
It’s a start:
an SUV to a low-emission hybrid or Smart car reduces CO
by 70 per cent, the ratio reduction we need to achieve globally to stop climate
• It’s a fact:
the Harper government banned an Environment Canada scientist from launching his
Hotter than Hell
. It documents a
war over Canadian water after climate change dries up US water sources.
• Watch for
: Al Gore’s
aptly-titled documentary on climate change, “An Inconvenient Truth.”