Sir David Attenborough has told MPs that the planet’s climate breakdown will bring ‘major problems’ and ‘great changes’.
The veteran broadcaster was giving evidence to parliament’s Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee as part of its inquiry into clean growth and international climate targets.
Witnessing climate breakdown
Attenborough said the most vivid example he had witnessed of the changing climate was revisiting the Great Barrier Reef and seeing how it had been bleached because of rising temperatures.
Visiting the Australian landmark in the 1950s, he said he had “the extraordinary experience of diving on the reef and suddenly seeing this multitude of fantastic, beautiful forms of life”.
But upon his return 10 years ago, he said: “Instead of multitudes of wonderful forms of life, I was struck by how it was bleached white because of the rising temperatures and increasing acidity of the seas.”
— Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee (@CommonsBEIS) July 9, 2019
Attenboroughalso remembered visiting a glacier on South Georgia, in the southern Atlantic Ocean, and then returning decades later to the same spot where the glacier was no longer visible because it had retreated so far.
When he began making documentaries 50 years ago, he did not believe it was possible people could change the climate. He also said “I’m not by nature a propagandist”, before adding: “if you become aware of what is happening to the natural world, you don’t have any alternative”.
“Great changes” and “major problems” ahead
Attenborough insisted that “dealing with problems means we’ve got to change our lifestyle”.
And while the 93-year-old said the issue was unlikely to affect him, “the problems of the next 20 to 30 years are major problems that are going to cause great social unrest and great changes in what we eat and how we live”.
He warned that: “Large parts of Africa are going to be even less inhabitable than they are now, and there will be major upsets in the balance between our national boundaries.”
He also argued that industry should be encouraged to invest in new technologies for generating, storing and transporting energy, such as batteries.
He insisted that the growing voice of youngsters on environmental issues was a source of hope, and referring to the young people who had come to the committee hearing to hear him speak, he said: “It’s their futures that are in our hands.”
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