Sir David Attenborough has addressed world leaders at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow (the COP26) about the dire need for action on climate change, stressing that he has faith in our ability to turn things around.
As the ABC reports, Attenborough attended the event as a ‘people’s advocate’ and called on leaders to move quickly on this emergency.
“Our burning of fossil fuels, our destruction of nature, our approach to industry, construction and learning, are releasing carbon into the atmosphere at an unprecedented pace and scale,” he said.
“We are already in trouble.”
He continued, sharing that though we are in a precarious situation, there is time to improve the state of the Earth.
“It’s easy to forget that ultimately the climate emergency comes down to a single number — the concentration of carbon in our atmosphere,” Attenborough continued.
“The people alive now are the generation to come, [and] will look at this conference and consider one thing: Did that number stop rising and start to drop as a result of commitments made here?
“There’s every reason to believe that the answer can be yes.”
But, of course, this is not the first time the documentary maker has called on people to act in the name of reducing climate change.
David Attenborough: A Life On Our Planet, which dropped in late 2020, is the culmination of a 60-year career for Attenborough. It is also his witness statement for the environment and the effects of climate change – and a guide on how we can improve things.
To be honest, A Life On Our Planet can get downright depressing at times. Thanks to humans, there is only 35% of the world’s natural wilderness left, which has been destroyed to make room for the 7.5 billion people currently on Earth. When Attenborough began his career it was 66%. That’s half of the world’s natural spaces destroyed in 80 years.
Attenborough then gives some terrifying predictions. In 2030, if deforestation of the Amazon rainforest continues, it will degrade to the point of becoming a dry savanna, which will alter the global water cycle. By 2100 the planet will be 4 degrees Celsius warmer, by which time we will apparently be enduring the sixth mass extinction event. Yeah, not good.
The recent IPCC report echoed this, stressing that our common goal right now is to reduce warming and work to avoid hitting 2 degrees warming. It stated:
“The report provides new estimates of the chances of crossing the global warming level of 1.5°C in the next decades, and finds that unless there are immediate, rapid and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, limiting warming to close to 1.5°C or even 2°C will be beyond reach.”
That is the central issue being addressed at the COP26 event – with hopes that world leaders will come together and act in the name of the Earth’s future.
What does David Attenborough suggest you do?
You’re probably thinking, ‘but what can I do to help?’ And, yeah, the truth is that the majority of impact on this issue is decided by world leaders and large corporations. But, there are ways we can help contribute to a greener future, too.
The good news is that Attenborough includes some solutions in A Life On Our Planet that could help stop climate change. There are things we can all do to help and Attenborough even shared a personal message to Aussies, to tell us how:
A message from Sir David Attenborough to Australians on why he hopes they will watch his new documentary feature.
— Netflix ANZ (@NetflixANZ) October 4, 2020
Curbing the rising population
At the rate that the population is currently growing, by 2100 Earth is set to be home to 11 billion people. To slow this growth, Attenborough believes that improving access to healthcare and enabling young children, particularly girls, to complete an education at school is vital.
The idea is that with better education, women worldwide will marry later and have fewer children while still having access to better careers and economic prospects. Stay in school, kids.
Moving to renewable energy sources
The renewable energy idea has been around for a while but is now more urgent than ever. The fact is fossil fuels won’t last forever, but solar, wind, and hydropower can be sourced naturally and endlessly. Attenborough gives the example of Morocco, which once relied on imported gas and oil for all its energy, but now the city generates 40% of its power from its own solar farm.
This is something that needs to be taken up by bigger companies, but we at home also have the chance to make a difference by reducing our power use and switching to green energy providers.
Rewilding our planet
Restoring biodiversity to areas we have destroyed is crucial. For example, fish stocks in our oceans are rapidly depleting. We over-fish our oceans to the point that the remaining fish have no time to breed. But by supporting the implementation of no-fish zones we give fish the chance to repopulate the oceans. Choosing to buy sustainably caught fish (or not eating fish – more on that later) is another way to support ocean ecosystems worldwide.
Switching to a plant-based diet
Farming space is another big one. Attenborough says that if we all switched to a largely plant-based diet we would only need half the current farming land. Many people are overwhelmed by the idea of switching cold-turkey to a vegan or vegetarian diet. But it can be something simple, like cutting down to 2-3 portions of meat a week, that makes a difference.
Australia’s sugar crops are a big part of the reason the Great Barrier Reef is degrading. Looking for the ‘Bonsucro’ logo when buying items containing sugar can help to support responsibly grown sugar cane. Similarly, looking for palm oil-free or sustainable palm oil products will help keep to keep the homes of cute orangutans safe.
The climate change problem is definitely immense. But Attenborough proves to us that by working with our natural environments rather than against them, we have a chance to stop the problem. So lastly, go and educate yourself by watching David Attenborough’s A Life On Our Planet or one of these other important documentaries on sustainability, here.
This article has been updated since its original publish date.