Steve Posselt of Ballina.
Steve Posselt of Ballina. Craig Warhurst

Ballina man paddling 6600km to highlight climate change

PADDLING 6600km north from the mouth of the Mississippi River in New Orleans to Hudson Bay in Canada's Arctic Circle is more than just a massive physical challenge for Ballina adventurer Steve Posselt.

The 62-year old civil engineer is outspoken about the threat of climate change and will use his massive kayaking expedition next year as a platform to raise awareness of the issue.

He is the first to admit the trip could be "a bit of a struggle".

"The Mississippi travels at 5km an hour, and I only paddle six," he laughed.

"It's all civilised until I get until a few hundred km from the Arctic, where there are no roads." Mr Posselt added.

Then there's the wildlife to consider.

"I want to get out of Canada by the end of September because that's when the polar bears will be where I'll be. I don't fancy facing a polar bear with a can of capsicum spray."

CLIMATE CAMPAIGNER: Local man Steve Posselt trained as a Climate Reality Leader with Al Gore the week before last. Photo Contributed
Steve Posselt Contributed

Travelling up the Mississippi and across the Great Lakes is a huge journey, but amazingly Mr Posselt will do much more than that: he starts his trip kayaking from Canberra to Sydney, and after the North American jaunt he'll paddle from Bristol in England, to Paris, via the English Channel.

In total he will paddle 8000km over 10 months, ending the trip at the Paris international climate conference in November 2015.

"When I get to Paris I want a million signatories saying the Australian government doesn't represent all Australians and we want deeper emission cuts," he declared.

More specifically, Mr Posselt's trip is about linking what he calls "chaotic climate events that are outside any known precedent".

He cites the "Canberra fire tornado" during the Canberra bushfires of 2003, Hurricane Katrina, Superstorm Sandy, and Typhoon Haiyan as examples.

He put these scary weather events down to a simple factor - they all come out of the atmosphere having 4% more energy than it had 50 years ago.

"They are more extreme than has ever occurred on Earth in the time that mankind has lived here," he said.

"If you have a warmer atmosphere, it will hold more water, so it draws more water out of the ocean which causes more extreme rainfall events, and pulls more water out of the ground which causes bigger droughts."

This will be Mr Posselt's fifth major kayaking trip, which started when he paddled and walked his wheeled kayak 3250km from Brisbane to Adelaide via the Murray-Darling system including dragging the specially-modified wheeled kayak for a total of 1080km because the Darling was in drought.

His last trip in 2009 he paddled across Victoria, from the border up the Goulburn River, walking over the ranges, and then down the Yarra River to Melbourne.