The veteran broadcaster and the former UN climate chief have publicly supported students who are on strike over climate inaction and said that their attitude over the failure of older generations to act on climate change is “certainly justified”.
Sir David, who was speaking in an interview with Christina Figueres, the former UN climate chief, in a podcast for Figueres’ Global Optimism Group, a pressure group focussed on social and environmental change, said the protests by young people across the world were extremely encouraging and dismissed their critics as cynics.
“That is the one big reason I have for feeling we are making progress. If we were not making progress with young people, we are done.” said Attenborough. “[Young people] understand the simple discoveries of science about our dependence upon the natural world. My generation is no great example for understanding – we have done terrible things.”
The 93-year old broadcaster explained that one of the only reasons he has for feeling hopeful about the future is that the issue of climate change is making progress with the young. Although he also said he felt depressed at the kind of world his grandchildren might inherit.
‘Young People Have Clear Sight’
Attenborough said that “young people may lack experience but have clear sight” and that “we older ones should take notice of what they say.”
The actions by the world’s young people were inspired by the Swedish teenager, Greta Thunberg, who began a solo strike against climate inaction in November 2018. Thunberg resumed her strike, now into its 36th week, outside the Swedish parliament on Friday.
Christina Figueres also backed Thunberg’s actions and the Extinction Rebellion protests which ended on Thursday saying that a sense of outrage needs to be mobilised, in order to speed action on climate change by politicians and big businesses.
‘The Injustice is too Great’
“Civil disobedience happens when the injustice gets too great. That is where we are,” said Figures.
Attenborough’s comments come just a few days after his latest documentary Climate Change – The Facts was released on the BBC. In the film, Attenborough gives a clear warning that if we don’t act then life on earth as we know it is at stake.
“The scientific evidence is that if we have not taken dramatic action within the next decade, we could face irreversible damage to the natural world and the collapse of our societies,” he says in the program.
All the world’s scientists are in agreement that unless carbon emissions are cut by 50% by 2030, then hundreds of millions of people will face hunger, poverty, extreme heatwaves, droughts and devastating storms as climate change spins out of control.
Yet despite these clear warnings from scientists, greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise. The earth’s natural resources are also being lost at an ever-greater rate, the rainforest is disappearing, with an area of forest the size of Panama being lost every year and animal populations have fallen by an average of 60% since 1970.