David Attenborough warns of ‘major problems’ and ‘great social unrest’ as climate breakdown continues

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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.”


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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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  • Show Comments
    1. Why the media and the general public continue to lionise Attenborough is, to me, saddening. His views are to the right of many Greens and Labour supporters. As Patron of the Population Trust NGO, he is calling for a “reduction of birth rate and reduction of net migration to a sustainable level”, with the latter being achieved by “adjusting criteria for approval of temporary and permanent residency, developing policies affecting incentives for immigration and emigration”, thus putting him squarely in the UKIP camp.

      I’ve not heard a peep out of him regarding the central role that capitalism has played in creating the climate crisis, nor of the role that alternatives to capitalism must play in reducing its impact on the world that he claims to care about. It’s time we listened a lot less to this character and looked far more at democratic, green and socialist solutions.

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