Climate’s security threat set out
British naturalist Attenborough, PM Johnson make plea to UN top body
UNITED NATIONS — British naturalist David Attenborough warned on Tuesday that climate change is the biggest security threat that modern humans have ever faced, telling the UN Security Council: “I don’t envy you the responsibility that this places on all of you.”
Attenborough, 94, the world’s most influential wildlife broadcaster, addressed a virtual meeting of the 15-member council on climaterelated risks to international peace and security. It was chaired by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, with Britain holding the rotating presidency of the 15-member council this month.
“If we continue on our current path, we will face the collapse of everything that gives us our security: Food production, access to fresh water, habitable ambient temperature and ocean food chains,” Attenborough said.
“And if the natural world can no longer support the most basic of our needs, then much of the rest of civilization will quickly break down.”
During an approximately eightminute virtual address to the Security Council, Attenborough warned that the world was dangerously close to “tipping points” that, if surpassed, could send the globe spiraling into uncontrolled warming.
While there is no going back, Attenborough stressed that if countries act fast enough, “we can reach a new stable state”.
With the world struggling to cut planet-warming emissions fast enough to avoid catastrophic warming, the United Nations will stage a climate summit in November in Glasgow, Scotland.
“It is literally our last, best hope to get on track and to get this right,” US climate envoy John Kerry told the council.
The November summit serves as a deadline for countries to commit to deeper emissions cuts. It will be the most important gathering since the 2015 event that yielded the Paris Agreement, when nearly 200 countries committed to halt rising temperatures quickly enough to avoid catastrophic change.
“I know that there are people around the world who will say that this is all kind of green stuff from a bunch of tree-hugging, tofu munchers and not suited to international diplomacy and international politics,” Johnson told the council. “I couldn’t disagree more profoundly.”
Russia questioned whether the Security Council is the right forum to be discussing climate change.
“We agree that climate change and environmental issues can exacerbate conflict. But are they really the root cause of these conflicts? There are serious doubts about this,” Russia’s UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said.
The Paris accord aims to cap the rise in temperatures to “well below” 2 C and as close as possible to 1.5 C to avoid the most devastating impacts of climate change.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres pushed countries, companies, cities and financial institutions to make ambitious commitments to cut global emissions.
“We still have a long way to go, and we look to the major emitters to lead by example in the coming months,” Guterres said. “This is a credibility test of their commitment to people and planet. It is the only way we will keep the 1.5 C goal within reach.”