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Live in Calgary: Tim Flannery, the "Aussie Rules" Climate Champ

It was standing room only at the Fairmont Palliser Wednesday night.

More than 200 people packed a ballroom at Calgary’s Palliser Hotel Wednesday evening to hear Tim Flannery engage in a candid and wide-ranging chat with Alberta green economy expert Robert Page. 

Flannery is the chair of the Australian Climate Council, a new non-governmental organization providing information about the science of climate change. His books include The Future Eaters and the New York Times bestseller The Weather Makers—widely regarded as one of the pivotal public works on climate change. 

Along with our friends and partners at Alberta Climate Dialogue, we hosted Flannery and Page to kick-off our Low Carbon Leadership Speaker Series.

In a wide-ranging conversation that touched on carbon pricing, the unexpected collapse of Australia’s thermal coal market, China’s rush into renewables, and the Phoenix-like rise of the Climate Council, Flannery proved articulate, and funny, sharing many personal details, including the future he fears his infant son will inherit.

At one point, Page asked Flannery to cite the highs and lows of his long career communicating the science of climate change.

For a highlight, Flannery cited the remarkable crowd funding success of the Climate Council. He’d just been fired from his position as chief of the Climate Commission, after the new government pulled the plug on the organization that was set up by a previous prime minister to communicate climate science to Australians.

“I must say that when I stood up two weeks ago to say, ‘If we raise $50,000, then we’ll be off to a good start,'” Flannery said. “But what if the public doesn’t care?”

Within a week, the Climate Council had raised $1 Million in small donations from Australian citizens.

“The gratification when we got that support really validated what we want to do.”

At the other end of the spectrum, Flannery cited the year leading up to the dissolution of the Climate Commission as “the hardest time in my life.”

“We were targets of a very dirty campaign,” to overturn the carbon tax, he said. “There were photographs of my house published in the newspapers, I needed police protection at my home,” he said.

Still, he remained undaunted, and more committed to his work than ever.

“It’s a bit like Aussie rules football, you get the ball and you run as fast as you can,” added Flannery. “The climate thing is a bit like that. We have got the ball and are running towards the final line, and that is what we have to do.”

“I expect to get kicked in the privates once or twice; the object is to run with that ball and get to that point where we have made that transition before the effects of climate change get really serious.”

Here are a few other quotes, observations, and comments, tweeted as the evening went along by both our team members and attendees.

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