A bestseller in his native Australia, Tim Flannery's The Weather Makers has also led the Australian government to announce it will change its environmental policies.
How did you feel when Environmental Minister Ian Campbell said your book was influential in the Australian government changing its policies on global warming?
The Australian[where the announcement was front-page news] had been carrying articles by right-wing climate skeptics for months, but had virtually ignored climate change otherwise—so I was surprised, to say the least. If it has a similar effect in the U.S., I'll die a happy man.
You have said that you were once an environmental skeptic. Was there one key event while writing the book that changed your mind?
It isn't true to say that I was an environmental skeptic. Until around 2001, I had placed climate change alongside overpopulation, water pollution, biodiversity loss and soil degradation as roughly equal threats to our survival. It was only when I learned of climate change's impact on Australia's mountain rainforests that I realized how all-pervasive and world-altering climate change could be. Those rainforests had survived for tens of millions of years, yet climate change may destroy them this century.
You conclude your book with a strong statement that the world can avoid a global climatic disaster if governments as well as individuals do the right thing. How do you remain so optimistic?
As I researched the possible impacts of climate change, I have to admit that I found it difficult at times to get out of bed in the morning and keep going. But then I discovered how simple and achievable some of the solutions are, and that motivated me. Now I am simply determined to win the war for climatic stability: after all, we have no other choice.
How will you respond to those in America who support the Bush administration's position that there is inadequate scientific information on global warming?
Most politicians and their advisers are intelligent people, and most have children. The Weather Makers demonstrates that the science is now indubitably in on climate change, and it evenhandedly explains the implications of that. In effect, the book allows anyone to see that the emperor has no clothes, which is, I think, why the Australian government is changing tack on climate policy right now.