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Sir David Attenborough calls for urgent action on climate change

Published 05/12/2015

Sir David Attenborough has made a new documentary about the Great Barrier Reef
Sir David Attenborough has made a new documentary about the Great Barrier Reef

Sir David Attenborough has warned of the "disastrous" delays in taking action on climate change.

The naturalist said the "alarming" thing is that other issues are going to "take priority and take world leaders' attention from this urgent problem".

Sir David, 89, was talking ahead of his latest documentary about the Great Barrier Reef and as the United Nations conference on climate change takes place in Paris.

He told reporters he will be at the conference alongside scientists he worked with on his latest series, and said they will be showing their films.

Asked if this is part of a lobbying campaign, Sir David said: "If it's lobbying for protection of the reef, yes."

Explaining what he would like governments to do to save the reef, he said: "To find out ways in which we can actually stop the increase in temperature and CO2."

Sir David highlighted the responsibility on today's generation, warning: "People who are going to be around in 10 years' time, in 20 years' time, will blame us profoundly, if we don't do anything about it."

He added: "Once the glaciers in Greenland start melting that will cause all kinds of cascading disasters, but they're already happening. Every day that it's delayed is disastrous. The longer we leave it the worse it gets is all you could say, so let's get on with it and solve it."

The veteran broadcaster said that while the human race will survive, there is a "series of disasters which get worse and worse and worse", and suggested we have passed a number of "tipping points".

Sir David said that the fact there is a refugee problem is a tipping point, but said it would be "absurd" to suggest that there are refugees solely because of climate change.

Talking about changes in the natural world, Sir David said: "Snap backs take place over a period which is much longer than the human lifespan. Snap backs in the natural world take place over centuries if not millennia. And if you look at the geological record you'd think 'oh yes it's snapped back'. It actually snapped back over a period of 50,000 years."

He added: "The world is in turmoil."

On the future of the Great Barrier Reef, Sir David said that it will survive the pressure of increased tourism, adding: "The thing that it may not survive is the steady erosion, the effect of global warming."

He said that if the temperature rises, "what happens then is anybody's guess, but it won't be good".

Asked about Sir David's "lobbying" for protection of the reef, a BBC spokesman said: "The series is an exploration of the wonders of the Great Barrier Reef and the efforts being made to preserve it for future generations.

"As well as exploring the reef's extraordinary diverse life, its new and surprising science and the very personal connection David has to it, the series explores the impact environmental factors have on the reef.

"The series does not campaign for the protection of the reef but delivers impartial, verified information on the changes the reef has experienced. David Attenborough is a passionate, world-renowned naturalist with his own personal views on many subjects, which he is allowed to express."

Just this week, BBC Trust chairman Rona Fairhead said impartiality is "absolutely critical".

She told the European Scrutiny Committee: "We think it's an absolutely critical value and critical part of the BBC. When we ask the public what is important about the BBC, it is that it's seen to be independent and impartial."

:: Great Barrier Reef with David Attenborough will air at 9pm on December 30 on BBC One.

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