David Attenborough: Senior politicians in denial on climate risk

TV naturalist calls out scepticism in governments ahead of a politically important year in fight against global warming

Pic: The Open University (OU)/Flickr

Pic: The Open University (OU)/Flickr

By Sophie Yeo

World leaders are in denial about the risks posed by climate change, says naturalist Sir David Attenborough.

The broadcaster, whose documentaries explore the natural world, told Sky News that governments often take the easy route of closing their eyes to the problem.

“Wherever you look there are huge risks,” he said.

“The awful thing is that people in authority and power deny that, when the evidence is overwhelming and they deny it because it’s easier to deny it – much easier to deny it’s a problem and say we don’t care.”

He emphasised the scale of the problem, and the difficulty of creating the unity needed to solve it.

“We won’t do enough and no-one can do enough because it’s a very major serious problem facing humanity but at the same time it would be silly to minimise the size of the problem.

“Never in the history of humanity in the last 10 million years have all human beings got together to face one danger that threatens us – never.

“It’s a big ask but the penalty of not taking notice is huge.”


Attenborough’s warning comes ahead of an important year for politics.

In Britain, Attenborough’s home country, voters will elect a new government in May.

While the current Conservative prime minister David Cameron has said he believes climate change is “one of the most serious threats”, his party’s environmental reputation has been tarnished by scepticism within the ranks over the science of climate change.

The surge in UKIP voters has added an extra dose of denial to UK politics. The party has pledged to push for the repeal of the 2008 Climate Change Act and take away green subsidies.

Meanwhile, US president Barack Obama’s commitment to tackling climate change will soon be tested, with the Energy Committee promising to bring back the controversial issue of the Keystone XL pipeline as soon as January 7.

The newly elected prime minister of India, Narendra Modi, faced criticism after he snubbed a climate summit held by UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon in New York last September.

At the UN’s climate summit in Paris, world leaders will have a chance to prove they are serious about fighting climate change.

In December, they will gather to sign off a new international treaty on climate change, which will establish a long term plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

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