Australia Climate Leader 2019: Timothy Flannery

Timothy Flannery, Scientist and Climate Advocate

Tim Flannery is a veteran scientist and climate advocate. At 63 years old, Flannery is currently a professorial fellow at the University of Melbourne, also his hometown. His professional achievements span the scientific and advocacy spheres. A prolific researcher, Flannery is credited with the discovery of new mammalian species and critical contributions to the Australian paleontological record. David Attenborough has even argued he belongs in the league of all-time great explorers! 

As a climate advocate Flannery has held multiple high-level advisory roles, most importantly as the inaugural head of the Australian Climate Commission. The government body was formed in 2011 and tasked with providing high-quality information on climate solutions to the Australian public until it was disbanded by a newly-elected Liberal-National government in 2013. Recognizing the necessity of having a high-level climate advisory body operating in Australia, Flannery launched a new not-for-profit immediately and today the Climate Council remains one of Australia’s leading climate orgs, renowned for its ability to produce high-level research and advice to governments. Tim remains Chief Councillor of the organisation.

As an author, Flannery’s 2005 book The Weather Makers received critical acclaim and is ranked alongside An Inconvenient Truth for its ability to clearly communicate climate science to a wider audience. Follow up titles include Atmosphere of Hope: Searching for Solutions to the Climate Crisis (2015) & Sunlight & Seaweed: an Argument for how to Feed, Power and Clean up the World (2017), where Flannery details a host of possible solutions to the climate crisis.

From The Weather Makers:

“One thing that I hear again and again as I discuss climate change with friends, family, and colleagues is that it is something that may affect humanity in decades to come but is no immediate threat to us. I’m far from certain that that is true, and I’m not sure it is even relevant. If serious change or the effects of serious change are decades away, that is just a long tomorrow. Whenever my family gathers for a special event, the true scale of climate change is never far from my mind…On a broader scale, 70 percent of all people alive today will still be alive in 2050, so climate change affects almost every family on this planet.”

Written in 2005, it’s amazing how prescient Flannery’s writing is today. 

For decades now, Flannery has been warning of impending climate damage and has drawn links between extreme weather events in Australia  – heatwaves, floods, bushfires – and rising global emissions. His passionate, thoroughly-researched, authoritative arguments have set the standard for climate communication in the Australian advocacy sector. Despite having little success with federal politicians (especially conservative MPs), Flannery has maintained his composure and continued to produce exceptional research and written works, laying out visions and solutions for Australia to combat the climate crisis.


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