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Climate warrior battles the sceptics

Anna Rose believes the truth of climate change has been manipulated by vested interests.

SOY latte with honey" was climate-change warrior Anna Rose's choice of coffee at a cafe. Some sort of environmental consideration? "I just like the taste," she said.

As is often the case in the bewildering climate debate, you can sometimes read too much into simple things.

For 29-year-old Rose, who spent a month working on a recent TV documentary with former Liberal senator Nick Minchin, human-generated climate change is a basic truth that has been deliberately tangled by vested interests.

"There has been a massive campaign of misinformation and confusion and doubt," she says. "But there are three pretty simple facts. One, greenhouse gases trap heat in the atmosphere; two, humans have emitted these gases since the industrial revolution; three, since then the world has warmed.

''Our carbon dioxide levels are 40 per cent higher than they were before the Industrial Revolution and that has led to a rise of 0.8 degree centigrade. That can seem small until you realise it is a global average. For example, Arctic temperatures have risen six degrees."

Rose has just published a book, Madlands: A journey to change the mind of a climate sceptic, that is based on the TV show. She is now on a three-month road trip around Australia to promote it, spreading the environmental gospel to school groups and community forums.


The cover features Minchin and Rose floating in a rowboat with a polar bear marooned on a shrinking piece of ice. She says the great sceptic push began in the 1990s when ''mining and other carbon-intensive companies joined with right-wing think tanks and allies in the main political parties to orchestrate a campaign to undermine climate science".

She believes the TV show with Minchin - I Can Change Your Mind on Climate Change - scored an environmental goal or two.

"I did get Nick to a point in London where he said the world had warmed and that humans are probably responsible for part of it. I thought that was a big step forward because he had said in the past that warming had stopped."

Anna Rose, was raised in Newcastle. A surfer, she became aware of the heavy traffic of coal freighters - up to 30 a day - on the horizon. Around the same time a family farm had to be sold because of the drought. "I had been learning at school about greenhouse gases," she says, "and began joining the dots."

Six years ago, she co-founded the Australian Youth Climate Coalition which now has 81,000 members. "I'm focusing on the practical aspects. For me, it is not the polar bears and Barrier Reef, although they are affected. It is about food security and infrastructure.

''More than 40 per cent of our food comes from the Murray-Darling basin and when the Garnaut Review looked at the impact of climate change on this area, they found agriculture could decline by up to 97 per cent by the year 2100. That's an incredibly concerning statistic."

Rose's other message is on rising seas. "At the moment, Australia is on track for at least a one-metre rise by 2100. We met the chief oceanographer of the US Navy and he said they are planning for at least a metre. In NSW alone, that would destroy or damage between 40,000 and 60,000 homes, 250 kilometres of highway and 1200 commercial enterprises. When you look at the risks, it would be irresponsible to ignore the science."

Recently married to Simon Sheikh, chief of the GetUp! activist group, Rose is a qualified lawyer but sees her climate campaign as her life mission.

''Pumping 30 billion tonnes of carbon pollution into the atmosphere has consequences,'' she says, scoffing at the notion that Australia's carbon tax will put us ahead of the rest of the world. ''The Gillard government has done a terrible job explaining it. Over 30 countries have brought in a carbon price since 2005.''