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Al Gore gives Melbourne a taste of Climate Reality

About 15 hours after taking part in one of the most unlikely press conferences in Australian political history, former US vice-president turned climate change rock star, Al Gore, strode on to a Melbourne stage to delirious woots and whistles.

The stage backdrop was garnished with gum tree branches and bathed in green light as he addressed more than 500 aspiring "climate leaders" at Melbourne Park on Thursday morning.

Eight years has passed since the documentary An Inconvenient Truth mobilised the masses to act and advocate for change on environmental issues. And yet at some point in the intervening period the fervour was lost.

An annual Lowy Institute poll recently found that 45 per cent of Australians viewed global warming as a serious problem, up from 40 per cent 12 months ago. Experts believe we have reached a tipping point in the battle for belief.

"This is a moment pregnant with opportunity in Australia to tell your leaders this matters to you," said Mr Gore, remote in hand, slideshow at the ready. "Your activity makes a tremendous difference - don't doubt that for a second."

The debate over climate change is charged like never before, and recently given oxygen by US President Barack Obama's commitment to a 30 per cent emissions cut from power plants.


Green campaigners will almost certainly make themselves heard in November when Brisbane hosts the 2014 G20 summit, and beyond that, all roads lead to Paris and the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference.

Mr Gore's two-hour slideshow presentation covered everything from Hurricane Sandy and the Black Saturday bushfires to exponential gains in wind power and solar energy. Clive Palmer, Mr Gore's partner at Wednesday's audacious press conference, was not mentioned.

But the highlight for many present was always going to be Mr Gore's brand of rhetoric. He quoted Martin Luther King Jr on faith and sustaining belief.

"How long? Not long, because no lie can live forever. How long? Not long, because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice," he said. "After the last no comes a yes. It's up to us to get to that yes."

Anne Walker, of Canberra, said she was old enough to remember a time when the erosion of the ozone layer by cholorofluorocarbons prompted instant action - something sadly lacking now.

"Maybe we thought it was all in hand. Maybe there was some complacency," she said. "But the current government has brought out people's passions again. People are saying, ‘Hang on a second, that's not right'."

Matthew Daniel was also in the audience and was a perfect greenie specimen: he worked in soil health for Tree Preservation Australia, had a heavy red beard, long moustache and braided hair.

Mr Daniel moved to Melbourne following the 2011 floods in Brisbane. He said he believed that the exposure and urgency around climate change may have gone from flashpoint to fallow - but only in certain sectors.

"I've been working on it the whole time, I've been watching it the whole time, I've been touched by it the whole time," he said. "If there's a lag period, it's been used for getting the right information and good science."

Communicating that science was the point of the Climate Reality Project in Melbourne - training individuals to educate the public and peers on global warming.

About 80 people attended the first gatherings in 2006, while 525 were on hand this week for workshops on everything from "carbon market mechanisms" to "inoculating against denial".