Flannery is a paleontologist and environmentalist. He served in the unenviable job of Australia's climate commissioner for a few years before being sacked by a government tired of his meddlesome ways and insistence on telling the truth. In 2013 there were enough sacked climate commissioners that they formed the Australian Climate Council.
Flannery says we're on the cusp of climate crunch and he has a message - don't be shocked, be angry.
While species loss is heartbreaking, Flannery says what keeps him awake at night worrying are the human impacts.
“Global hunger has increased for the last three years because of extreme weather events, and that follows many decades of improvement,” he says. “To see that going backwards is terrifying, quite frankly. Nothing is more important than global food security.”
Inadequate action by governments has been brought into focus by ever-more alarming reports about the rate of warming, such as the recent long-term forecast from the UK Met Office that we might temporarily exceed 1.5C of average warming over preindustrial levels in the next five years.
Preventing warming from exceeding 1.5C in the long term was one of the targets agreed by the world’s nations in the UN’s 2015 Paris agreement.
“Sadly, I’ve been aware of [the urgency of] this for a long time,” says Flannery, who believes that breaching that threshold is inevitable in the next few decades, and that we are probably already committed to 2C of warming, “which is towards the catastrophic end of things”.
Instead of getting “dismayed and depressed”, he suggests we focus on damage that’s still within our power to avoid. “We have to reduce emissions as hard and fast as possible … [and] develop technologies that will get gigatons of carbon dioxide out of the air by 2050.”Flannery's message is clear. If your government has a fossil fuel fetish, something that should be almost impossible to believe with the arrival of "early onset" climate change impacts, then throw the bastards out. Stop empowering them. The time for that is over and time is something fast running out.
“People are shocked, but … they should be angry,” he adds. “The consequences will grow year by year, and stuff we were warning people about 20 years ago is now coming to fruition and is impossible to deny, unless you are wilfully blind.
“Bullshit baffles brains, but only temporarily and we’ve gone through a period in Australia and the US where people have been able to lie … But we’re in a different world now, a world where people are living with climate change consequences, and bullshit is no longer baffling brains, and so we are about to see a big shift.”