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Byron Shire
May 19, 2024

Vale Professor Will Steffen – leading climate scientist

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Professor Will Steffen. Photo supplied.

Leading climate scientist Professor Will Steffen has died of pancreatic cancer in Canberra at 75. Professor Steffen was a Climate Councillor and Emeritus Professor at Australian National University. 

According to RenewEconomy Professor Steffen had been science adviser to the Australian government department of climate change from 2004 to 2011 and was a commissioner on the Gillard government’s Climate Commission until it was scrapped by the Coalition Abbott government in 2013. 

Recently Professor Steffen wrote: ‘I’m angry because the lack of effective action on climate change, despite the wealth not only of scientific information but also of solutions to reduce emissions, has now created a climate emergency.

‘The students are right. Their future is now being threatening by the greed of the wealthy fossil fuel elite, the lies of the Murdoch press, and the weakness of our political leaders. These people have no right to destroy my daughter’s future and that of her generation.’

Professor Will Steffen from the Climate Council Calling Australia to Action on Climate Change. Photo supplied.

Activist of the Year

Locally Professor Steffen has spoken at a range of events on climate change over the years and was awarded the Ngara Institute Activist of the Year Award in 2018 along with fellow member of the Climate Council Lesley Hughes. 

‘I am saddened that a man of great intellect and compassion has left the struggle to save the planet from the folly of fossil fuel burning,’ president of North Rivers Guardians (NRG) and Nimbin Environment Centre (NEC), Scott Sledge told The Echo

‘Will was one of the first to alert people to the risks of climate change and the imminent disasters which seem to be already coming at us when we have not even got to the 1.5 degree celsius average global temperature rise yet. We pollute like there is no tomorrow and use prescious resources in foolish wars and aggression. How does the use of armaments fit with our carbon “budgets”?

Scott Sledge in Murwillumbah event. Photo Jimmy Malecki.

‘I feel Will should have had more years to help us, and as I am 75 now as well, maybe I feel more my own mortality. May younger people come to the fore to fill the gaps left by age and infirmity.’

‘The Australia Institute remembers Steffen as “a giant of climate science, unfailingly generous with his time and expertise.”,’ as reported by RenewEconomy

‘Federal energy and climate minister Chris Bowen also offered his condolences on Twitter.

“Very few people around the world could claim to have done more to tackle climate change than Professor Will Steffen,” Bowen said.

‘He was a first class scientist and a world class communicator. Around the world and in Australia, many are mourning the loss of a valued and loved colleague.’

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  1. An enormously sad loss to humanity; locally on a par with what it will be like when David Attenborough leaves us.
    His tireless communications with us on such pivotal survival issues, have forged connection via truth telling, to new levels of love and respect.
    All who came close to him, will never forget his amazing scientific aptitudes, calmness, perseverance and generosity.
    It’s difficult to bestow greater admiration.

  2. The climate emergency has not come about because of the failings of governments.

    It has come about because of the failings of billions of people, possibly including Professor Steffen himself, who have refused to act on the warnings by climate science and live more simply and humbly with a progressively lower carbon footprint – including a massive decrease in carbon footprint overnight based on choice of discretionary consumption levels


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