High-profile Australian scientist and environmental warrior Professor Tim Flannery has brought a message of hope to Griffith University’s Nathan campus.
Presented by Griffith’s Science on the GO! education outreach program, Professor Flannery was the keynote speaker for today’s (November 30) Brisbane component of the 2015 Cutting Edge Science Professional Learning Days for teachers and scientific operations officers. The event moves to Griffith’s Gold Coast campus tomorrow (December 1).
With a new book, Atmosphere of Hope: Searching for solutions to the climate crisis, and the beginning of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, Professor Flannery’s visit was timely and found him as driven as ever, but also more optimistic about the future.
“We are in the midst of an environmental crisis, but there are good things happening,” he said.
“We need to be more ambitious, to verify that countries honour their pledges to reduce carbon emissions, and we need to capitalise on innovation opportunities that will be of such benefit for the Earth and, by extension, humankind.”
Professor Flannery describes these innovations as Third Way Technologies, distinguishing them from the established climate change strategies of emission reduction and geoengineering schemes.
Examples of Third Way Technologies already in place include large-scale reafforestation and soil supplementation.
However, Professor Flannery also cited the potential for large-scale seaweed farming, the broad adoption of carbon fibre technology, the use of giant storage facilities in the Antarctic to sequester carbon dioxide, and other methods to reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide.
He believes Third Way Technologies could cut about 40 per cent of current emissions by 2050, but only if action is taken now.
“Simply continuing to reduce emissions is not enough. We need the development of new technologies to draw carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere in large enough quantities to change the climate of the planet,” he said.
“We know the problem we have to solve, and that’s an incredible privilege. While we can’t say which strategies and technologies will work best, we are committed to exploring them because of our previous inaction.”
Professor Flannery sees reason for hope in the younger generation.
“Young people know what’s at stake, they know what’s going on and they are not afraid to embrace innovation,” he said.
“There is much to do, but I see a commitment among young people that gives me hope. It makes me more optimistic about how they will define their future and the future of this planet.”
The Cutting Edge Science initiative comprises 21 workshops over two days and is a partnership between Griffith University and the Department of Education, Training and Employment.
In introducing Professor Flannery, Deputy Vice Chancellor (Engagement) Professor Martin Betts said the Cutting Edge initiative reflected Griffith University’s understanding of the capacity for STEM subjects to power the future.
The School of Environment’s Dr Adam Brumm will deliver the keynote address at the Gold Coast campus tomorrow.
Dr Brumm is a senior research fellow in archaeology at Griffith University. His main area of expertise is the dispersal and evolution of Pleistocene hominins in South-East Asia, especially Indonesia, where he has spent the past decade systematically searching for physical traces of humanity’s past that can help answer questions of human evolution in this region.
To register, go to: Cutting Edge Science