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Image / Agenda / Breaking Stories

David Attenborough’s impassioned speech at COP26 is a must-watch


By Megan Burns
02nd Nov 2021

@cop26uk

David Attenborough’s impassioned speech at COP26 is a must-watch

He not only shared his personal experiences of seeing nature in decline, but offered a rousing call to the delegates and attendees at the climate change conference.

In a powerful speech at the COP26 climate summit, Sir David Attenborough has called on world leaders to do what is necessary to reverse climate change. His speech was notable not just for his impassioned delivery, but with the wonderful simplicity with how he presented the problem they’re faced with.

With the many facets of the problem, it can seem impossible to tackle, but he offered a reminder that each is simply part of one large issue. “It’s easy to forget that the emergency climate comes down to a single number: the concentration of carbon in our atmosphere. The measure that greatly determines global temperature.”

He then goes on to show that charting this number through time shows clearly our relationship with our world. For much of humanity’s ancient history, this number fluctuated greatly, and so too did global temperatures. It was a brutal and unpredictable world that offered no stability, and our distant ancestors lived in only small numbers at this time.

But just over 10,000 years ago, the carbon concentration in the atmosphere stabilised, causing global temperatures to follow suit, and humans took the opportunity in these stable conditions to build civilisation.

Predictable seasons and reliable weather have allowed us to plan and build systems based on their regularity, and knowing what we can expect. The global temperature change, however, puts all this into jeopardy, caused by our high carbon emissions.

He points out that this is a problem that affects the poorest on earth disproportionately, but the consequences will reach us all.

He adds that we are the greatest problem solvers to ever live on earth, and that we know how to fix this problem. The issue is getting global action, and to all work together to achieve it.

He makes the point that no nation on earth is yet run in a sustainable way, and so we all have far to go in achieving this, as well as raising living standards for all. “We must use this opportunity to create a more equal world, and our motivation should not be fear, but hope.”

He says that future generations will look at COP26 and judge its success by one metric: did the atmosphere’s carbon concentration decrease because of the decisions made there? “If working apart, we are a force powerful enough to destabilise our planet, surely working together we are powerful enough to save it?”

He finished the speech by saying that in his own lifetime he has seen a terrible decline in our environment, but he hopes that in their lifetimes, with the right action, they can see great improvements.

Watch the full speech here: