2012 Keynote speakers


The NCCARF Climate Adaptation Conference will feature inspiring keynote speakers working at the cutting edge of climate change adaptation research and practice in Australia and around the world.

Confirmed plenary speakers include:

MCKEON_SimonOpening Plenary – Simon McKeon is Executive Chairman of Macquarie Group’s Melbourne office and was the 2011 Australian of the Year.  He is also Chairman of CSIRO and Business for Millennium Development. Simon is Chairman of the Federal Government’s Panel conducting a Strategic Review of Health and Medical Research. Simon is a Director of VisionFund, World Vision International’s microcredit arm, Global Poverty Project and Red Dust Role Models. He is an Australia Day Ambassador for the Victorian Government and serves on the Federal Government’s Human Rights Grants Scheme Advisory Panel, the Federal Government’s AusAID Business Engagement Steering Committee and the Victorian Government’s NDIS Implementation Task Force. He previously served as Founding President of the Federal Government’s Australian Takeovers Panel, Founding Chairman of MS Research Australia and Founding President of the Federal Government’s Point Nepean Community Trust. Simon is the helmsman of Macquarie Innovation which in March 2009 became the first sailboat in the world to sustain more than 50 knots and in so doing, peaked at a speed of 100 kmh (54 knots). He is also a Patron of the Australian Olympic Sailing Team which won 2 gold and a silver medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Combet-GregOpening Plenary – Greg Combet comes from a wine making family, growing up at Penfold’s Minchinbury cellars in the western suburbs of Sydney. He studied mining engineering at the University of New South Wales, working in the coal industry and later in community organisations. After working in the field of occupational health and safety, he went on to become a union official, at the same time graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in Economics from the University of Sydney. He also has a Graduate Diploma in Labour Relations and the Law. He was awarded a Member of the Order of Australia in 2006. Following the Labor Party’s Federal Election win in November 2007, Greg was appointed Parliamentary Secretary for Defence Procurement in the Rudd Labor Government. In February 2009 he was appointed the Parliamentary Secretary for Climate Change and in June 2009 was appointed Minister for Defence Personnel, Materiel and Science and the Minister Assisting the Minister for Climate Change. After the 2010 Federal Election, the Gillard Labor Government was formed on 7th September. Greg was promoted to Cabinet in the role of Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency. In December 2011, Greg took on the additional responsibility as the Minister for Industry and Innovation. Greg is a keen student of Australian labour history, a long time fancier of Gouldian finches and has a natural interest in the méthode Champenoise as it is applied to the production of sparkling Shiraz.

Harinder_Opening Plenary – Harinder Sidhu is the First Assistant Secretary, Adaptation, Science and Communications Division of the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency.  She is responsible for developing and coordinating the Government’s climate adaptation policies and coordinating the climate change science effort.  Harinder is also responsible for the communications and public affairs functions of the Department. Until taking up this position in November 2010, Harinder was the Chief Adviser in the Department’s International Division where she was responsible for the development and management of Australia’s international climate change policy, analysis, negotiation strategy and bilateral relationship development. Harinder began her career as a diplomat with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, where she was posted to Cairo, Damascus and Moscow. She holds degrees in Economics and Law from the University of Sydney.

Opening Plenary – Lesley Hughes is an ecologist at Macquarie University who researches the impacts of climate change on Australian species and ecosystems. She was a Lead Author for the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report and is continuing in this role for the Fifth Assessment Report. She is a former Chair of the NSW Scientific Committee and former co-convenor of the ARC Earth System Science Network. She currently co-convenes the Terrestrial Biodiversity Network for the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility (NCCARF), is a member of the Land Sector Carbon and Biodiversity Board, and is one of the six federal Climate Commissioners.


TonyMcMichaelPlenary 2 – Tony McMichael, medical graduate and epidemiologist, helped to pioneer research on the human health impacts of climate change. He leads the climate change and health research program at the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, Australian National University, studying recent, emerging and modelled future health risks, and adaptive strategies. He is ex-President of the International Society of Environmental Epidemiology, a Science Advisor to the (Australian) Climate Commission, and was elected to the US National Academy of Sciences in 2011. He has been an advisor on environmental health to WHO, UNEP the World Bank and other international bodies.

KrisEbiPlenary 2 – Kristie L. Ebi is a Consulting Professor in the Department of Medicine, Stanford University and the Executive Director of the IPCC WGII Technical Support Unit.  Prior to these positions, she was an independent consultant conducting research on the impacts of and adaptation to climate change, including on extreme events, thermal stress, foodborne safety and security, and vectorborne diseases.  She has worked with WHO, UNDP, USAID, and others on assessing vulnerability and implementing adaptation measures in Central America, Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Pacific.  She facilitated adaptation assessments for the health sector for the states of Maryland and Alaska.  She was a coordinating lead author or lead author in the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report, the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, the International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development, and two US national assessments.  Dr. Ebi’s scientific training includes an M.S. in toxicology and a Ph.D. and a Masters of Public Health in epidemiology, and two years of postgraduate research at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.  She has edited fours books on aspects of climate change and has more than 100 publications.

A-woodwardPlenary 2 – Alistair Woodward is Head of the School of Population Health at the University of Auckland. He is a medical graduate from the University of Adelaide, and has worked in universities in Australia, the UK and New Zealand. His research interests are in environmental epidemiology and tobacco control, and he has been involved in work on climate change for more than 15 years. He and Kirk Smith are leading the writing of the health chapter for the 5th assessment report of the IPCC.



G_JohnsonPlenary 3 – Gareth Johnston is Executive Director and Founder of Future Ready, Gareth has spent the last 15 years advising Australian and international public and private companies, government and community on environmental risk, climate response, adaptation and resilience. While Victoria’s bush fires and Queensland’s floods have heightened risk managers adaptation awareness and prompted some directors to prepare and act earlier than in the past Gareth believes much still remains to shift thinking from short term through medium to long term planning.


TrowbridgeJPlenary 3 – John Trowbridge  was a government appointed Member of the Executive Group of the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) from 2006 – 2010 after a distinguished career in the actuarial profession and in the insurance industry, holding consulting, executive and director roles. After completing his consulting career in 2002, he led Suncorp’s insurance business for a period and was subsequently a local director of Munich Reinsurance.  He was the panel Chairman of the Natural Disasters Insurance Review that released its final report in 2011.


HowdenWPlenary 3 – Mark Howden is a Chief Research Scientist with CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences, Canberra, Australia. He is also the Theme Leader of the ‘Adaptive primary industries, enterprises and communities’ theme in the CSIRO Climate Adaptation Flagship and is an Honorary Professor at Melbourne University, School of Land and Food. Mark’s work has focussed on the impacts of climate on Australian ecosystems and urban systems dealing with amongst other things: the dynamics of grazed and cropped ecosystems, development of innovative and sustainable farming systems, biodiversity, energy systems and water use. He has also developed the national (NGGI) and international (IPCC/OECD) greenhouse gas inventories for the agricultural sector and assessed sustainable methods of reducing greenhouse emissions from agriculture. Mark has worked on climate change issues for over 22 years in partnership with farmers, farmer groups, catchment groups, industry bodies, agribusiness, urban utilities and various policy agencies. He has been a major contributor to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Second, Third, Fourth and Fifth Assessment reports, the IPCC Regional Impacts Report and the IPCC Special Report on ‘Land use, land use change and forestry’ that addressed issues of carbon sequestration and the Kyoto Protocol, sharing the 2007 Peace Prize with other IPCC participants and Al Gore.

MarkRogersPlenary 3 – Mark Rogers was appointed Asset Manager, Infrastructure Investment at Colonial First State Global Asset Management in March 2007. Mark is responsible for the development and implementation of asset management strategies for the various portfolio assets and is involved in due diligence during the investment decision processes for Colonial First State’s Infrastructure Investment team. Prior to joining Colonial, Mark was a senior policy officer working on the Federal airport sale process and the development of the regulatory framework for the newly privatised Federal airports.  He has also been involved in government liaison, regulatory approvals and regulatory compliance issues for a large number of major infrastructure projects in Australia and New Zealand. Mark has over 16 years experience on all sides of the infrastructure sector from his involvement with the Department of Transport and Regional Services, his private consulting experience in major infrastructure projects and his work with Origin Energy in project construction and operation in the oil and gas sector. He is also Deputy Chair of the Australian Green Infrastructure Council.

JohnThwaitesPlenary 3 – John Thwaites is a Professorial Fellow, Monash University, and Chair of ClimateWorks Australia and the Monash Sustainability Institute.  John chairs the Australian Building Codes Board, the body responsible for developing and managing Australia’s building regulations. He also chairs the Climate Group Ltd in Australia, the Peter Cullen Water and Environment Trust, and the Australian Centre for the Moving Image. He is also a director of the Australian Green Building Council. John is a consultant at Maddocks Solicitors providing advice on climate change, water, sustainability and corporate social responsibility. He was Deputy Premier of Victoria from 1999 until 2007. He served as Minister for Health, Minister for Planning, Minister for Environment, Minister for Water, Minister for Victorian Communities and Victoria’s first Minister for Climate Change.

Francis-ZwiersWPlenary 4 – Francis Zwiers is the Director of the Pacific Climate Impacts Consortium at the University of Victoria, a regional climate service for British Columbia and surrounding areas. He is well known as an expert on the application of statistical methods to the analysis of observed and simulated climate variability and change, and for his participation in the IPCC as an author and Bureau member.


Mark_StaffordSmithPlenary 4 – Mark Stafford Smith is Science Director of the CSIRO Climate Adaptation Flagship, coordinating science undertaken across the Flagship research themes He is vice-chair of the Scientific Committee of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP) and the IGBP-appointed member of the Executive Committee for Global Environmental Change and Food Security Joint Project of the Earth System Science Partnership. He is one of the world’s leading desert and rangeland scientists and a researcher and past CEO of the Desert Knowledge Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) focusing on the science of desert living and sustainable management of outback environments. His recent work includes the book ‘Dry Times: Blueprint for a Red Land’.

PeterCosierClosing Plenary – Peter Cosier is the Director and a Founding Member of the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists, a privately funded institution established in 2002 with the aim of connecting science to public policy in Australia. He has a background in science, specialising in natural resources management and urban and regional planning.  His expertise is environmental policy. The Wentworth Group’s recent work: Optimising Carbon in the Australian Landscape blueprint, outlined how terrestrial carbon offsets can be used to repair degraded landscapes, restore and conserve biodiversity and improve the condition of agricultural soils.


Closing Plenary – Dave Griggs moved to Australia in 2007 to become Director of the Monash Sustainability Institute (MSI) which aims to deliver solutions to key sustainability challenges. In November 2008 he also became CEO of the newly created organisation ClimateWorks Australia (CWA), focussed on action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Previous positions he has held include UK Met Office Deputy Chief Scientist, Director of the Hadley Centre for Climate Change, and Head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) scientific assessment unit.
Dave is a past vice-chair of the World Climate Research Programme and member of the Victorian Ministerial Reference Council on Climate Change Adaptation. He is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (ATSE), a member of the Australian Council of Environmental Deans and Directors and the Climate Institute Strategic Council. Dave was awarded the Vilho Vaisala award (World Meteorological Organization) in 1992.

BarnettWClosing Plenary – Jon Barnett is a Professor in the Department of Resource Management and Geography at Melbourne University.  He is a political geographer whose research investigates the impacts of and responses to climate change on social systems, with a focus on risks to human insecurity, hunger, violent conflict, and water stress.  He has done extensive field-work in the South Pacific, China, and East Timor.  Jon is convenor of the national research network on the social, economic and institutional dimensions of climate change, which is part of the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility, and is a Lead Author for the forthcoming Fifth Assessment Report of the IPCC. He is the Executive Editor of the adaptation domain of Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews Climate Change

Hugh_PossinghamMarine Symposium Keynote – Hugh Possingham holds a joint Professorship between Ecology and Mathematics at The University of Queensland. He was an ARC Federation Fellow from 2007-2011. He sits on the council of The Australian Academy of Science in 2005 and now sits on its . He is Director of the ARC centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions (ARC CEED) www.ceed.edu.au and the National Environmental Research Program – Environmental Decisions Hub –www.nerpdecisions.edu.au. His research lab of over 30 researchers has a unifying interest in environmental applications of decision theory. Its reserve design software, Marxan (Eureka Prize 2009) is now used in over 100 countries to build their marine reserve system designs.

David-KarolyConference Dinner Speaker – David Karoly is leader of the Climate Change theme in the Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute  and Professor of Climate Science in the School of Earth Sciences at the University of Melbourne. Professor Karoly is an internationally recognised expert in climate change and climate variability, including greenhouse climate change, stratospheric ozone depletion and interannual climate variations due to El Nino-Southern Oscillation. He was heavily involved in preparation of the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released in 2007, in several different roles. Professor Karoly was Chair of the Premier of Victoria’s Climate Change Reference Group during 2008 and 2009. He is a member of the Science Advisory Panel of the Australian Climate Commission and a member of the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists. His international activities include as a member of the Joint Scientific Committee of the World Climate Research Programme.