‘Collapse of civilisation is on the horizon’
Attenborough’s chilling warning to world leaders at climate change summit
Sir David Attenborough warned yesterday that the ‘ collapse of our civilisations is on the horizon’ if governments do not agree to drastically cut greenhouse gas emissions.
Delivering the United Nations’ first ever ‘People’s Seat’ speech, he said that the Earth faces its ‘greatest threat in thousands of years’.
The 92-year-old broadcaster and naturalist made his powerful and passionate plea for action to political leaders at the UN’s climate change summit in Poland.
‘right now, we are facing a man-made disaster of global scale, our greatest threat in thousands of years – climate change,’ Sir David told the conference.
‘if we don’t take action, the collapse of our civilisations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon.’
The UN’s People’s Seat initiative is designed to give ordinary people a voice at the international talks involving officials from around 200 nations, including the UK. Before the event in Katowice, which is set to last two weeks, Sir David asked for people around the world to send him their messages for the UN’s power-brokers.
He said: ‘The world’s people have spoken, their message is clear: time is running out, they want you, the decision-makers, to act now. They’re supporting you in making tough decisions but they’re also willing to make sacrifices in their daily lives.’
Sir David added: ‘Leaders of the world, you must lead, the continuation of our civilisations and the natural world upon which we depend is in your hands.’
Delegates will discuss how to meet the target of limiting global warming to between 1.5 and 2.0 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
This was set by the UN’s Paris agreement on climate change in 2015, but critics have warned about the lack of action since then. representatives of some of the most powerful countries and biggest polluters will be absent from the conference.
President Donald Trump announced last year that the US was abandoning the Paris accord, while China was not expected to send its top politicians either.
Following his speech, Sir David said the US had been left ‘out on a limb’ by Mr Trump’s attitude to climate change because nearly every other government, as well as an angry younger generation, were demanding action. ‘i can only hope that, for whatever reason, whatever mechanism, that that will change in the United States,’ the Dynasties presenter said. ‘ it shouldn’t affect us and the whole of the rest of the world.’
Sir David said he believed he had been chosen to launch the People’s Seat as he has witnessed devastating change during his lengthy broadcasting career.
‘if you’re a naturalist or if you’re not a naturalist, they are the most stunning things in the natural world,’ he said. ‘it’s a most magical manifestation of life ... and you go to a reef which has been bleached, and it’s gone. All you see is that the coral is dead.’
He added that younger generations are now demanding change. ‘We have all been living beyond our means,’ he said. ‘it’s a perfectly simple thing. We knew not what we did. We have let down the young ... and they know it, and they are angry.’
United Nations secretary-general Antonio Guterres warned negotiators that the world was ‘in deep trouble’ with climate change. The talks aim to increase the pressure on countries to commit to doing more to curb their greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. Poorer countries are seeking more money to help them develop without increasing emissions.
The World Bank has announced that it is doubling investments in climate action, with £157billion for 2021-2025, including £39billion to help countries adapt to the impacts of global warming.