Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore is in Australia launching a new environmental pressure group made up of scientists and civic and business leaders. Safe Climate Australia demands emergency action to address warming temperatures and has plans to help a coal-hungry country move to a zero-carbon economy.
Al Gore told an audience in Melbourne that the planet has a "fever" caused by climate change.
The Nobel Prize winner and former U.S. vice president is in Australia to open a new research group - Safe Climate Australia. He said Monday that mounting environmental challenges require immediate action.
Safe Climate Australia is being formed by a group of scientists, and community and corporate leaders who aim to end Australia's reliance on cheap coal for electricity.
Mr. Gore's visit is part of a push by activists to raise awareness ahead of international climate change talks in Denmark later this year. At those negotiations, governments will seek to agree on a successor to the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, which expires in 2012.
Mr. Gore says the increasing ferocity of bushfires in Australia is an example of how quickly the climate is changing.
"The odds have been shifted so heavily that fires that used to be manageable now threaten to spin out of control and wreak damages that are far beyond what was experienced in the past," Gore said. "This crisis is gaining momentum and the reason why is not that complicated."
In February, 173 people died in wildfires that ravaged parts of the southern Australian state of Victoria.
Climate scientists warn that the Australian continent is particularly vulnerable to warming temperatures, which may lead to more severe storms, droughts and rising sea levels.
Mr. Gore's trip to Australia coincides with the country's first Youth Climate Summit. That gathering aims to mobilize a new generation of activists in preparation for the United Nations-sponsored climate talks in Copenhagen in December.
Mr. Gore told the meeting in Melbourne that recent action from both President Barack Obama's administration and the Rudd government in Australia were positive signs that climate change had become a priority.
Many scientists think that greenhouse gas emissions, particularly from burning coal and oil, are contributing to global warming. Governments around the world are discussing ways to reduce emissions, but the debate is complicated by economic interests and technological problems.