Sir David Attenborough has taken aim at US President Donald Trump and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison for being climate change deniers with a warning that global warming will cause “great social unrest” over the next 20 years.
The 93-year-old natural historian said he was “sorry that there are people in power internationally” who are not strong advocates for tackling the environmental crisis.
“Notable of course in the United States, but also in Australia which is extraordinary actually because Australia is already having to deal with some of the most extreme manifestations of climate change,” Attenborough told the UK House of Commons’ Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee.
“I will never forget diving on the (Great Barrier) reef about 10 years ago and suddenly seeing that instead of this multitude of wonderful forms of life, that it was stark white, it had bleached white because of the rising temperatures and the increasing acidity of the sea.”
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He urged those policymakers to listen to the concerns of their citizens.
“(In) both Australia and America, those voices are clearly heard. And one hopes that the electorate will respond to those.”
Attenborough said that unless “radical” action is taken on the climate large areas of Africa would become “even less inhabitable”.
These actions, he said, would need to include lifestyle changes including raising the price of “extraordinarily cheap” airline tickets.
“We cannot be radical enough with dealing with these issues,” he told politicians.
“If the world climate change goes on as it is we are going to be facing huge problems with immigration. Large parts of Africa will become even less inhabitable than they are now and there is going to be major upsets in the balance between our national boundaries.”
Known worldwide for his documentaries on nature, Attenborough said he was hopeful the world was on the cusp of great social change due to young people speaking out about the climate crisis, comparing the forthcoming attitude shift to how views changed regarding slavery.
“There was a time in the 19th century when it was perfectly acceptable for civilised human beings to think that it was morally acceptable to actually own another human being for a slave. And somehow or other, in the space of 20 or 30 years, the public perception of that totally transformed,” he said.
“I suspect that we are right now at the beginning of a big change. Young people, in particular, are the stimulus that’s bringing it about.”
Asked about his shift from entertainer to climate advocate, Attenborough said there was no choice.
“If you become aware of what is happening, you don’t have any alternative,” he said.
“I feel an obligation. The only way you can get up in the morning is to believe that, actually, we can do something about it. And I suppose I think we can.”