Humanity is already in trouble, Sir David Attenborough warns world leaders at COP26

1 November 2021, 13:41 | Updated: 1 November 2021, 14:33

Sir David Attenborough speaks at the opening ceremony of COP26

Humanity is "already in trouble" from climate change, Sir David Attenborough has told world leaders.

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Speaking during the opening ceremony of COP26 in Glasgow, the climate campaigner charted carbon emissions throughout human history, which has peaked at 414 parts per million.

He said: "Our burning of fossil fuels, our destruction of nature, our approach to industry, construction and learning, our releasing carbon into the atmosphere – we are already in trouble."

"The stability that we all depend on is breaking.

COP26 Summit - Day Two
'We are already in trouble': Sir David Attenborough at the COP26 opening ceremony. Picture: Getty

"This story is one of inequality as well as instability.

"Today those who have done the least to cause this problem are being the hardest hit – ultimately all of us will feel the impacts, some of which are now unavoidable."

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However, Sir David added young people can "give us the impetus we need to rewrite our story" and turn the tragedy of climate change into triumph.

He asked: "Is this how our story is due to end – a tale of the smartest species doomed by that all too human characteristic of failing to see the bigger picture in pursuit of short-term goals?"

Sir David Attenborough at COP26 today. World leaders attending the summit are under pressure to agree measures to deliver on emission reduction targets
Sir David Attenborough at COP26 today. World leaders attending the summit are under pressure to agree measures to deliver on emission reduction targets. Picture: Getty

Sir David went on: "Perhaps the fact that the people affected by climate change are no longer some imagined future generations but young people alive today, perhaps that will give us the impetus we need to rewrite our story, to turn this tragedy into a triumph."

He added that "we are after all the greatest problem solvers to have ever existed on earth" and that we "now understand the problem" of how to put climate change into reverse.

The natural history broadcaster said the motivation for tackling climate change should "not be fear, but hope".

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He said: "It comes down to this. The people alive now or the generation to come will look at this conference and consider one thing - did that number stop rising and start to drop as a result to drop as a result of commitments made here.

"There's every reason to believe that the answer can be yes.

"If, working apart, we are a force powerful enough to destabilise our planet, surely working together we are powerful enough to to save it."

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Sir David told delegates: "In my lifetime I've witnessed a terrible decline. In yours, you could and should witness a wonderful recovery. That desperate hope... is why the world is looking to you and why you are here."

It came after prime minister Boris Johnson told world leaders that COP26 must mark the moment when humanity began to "defuse that bomb" of climate change and began the fight back.

The purpose of the climate change conference is to ensure leaders from 200 countries commit to net zero emissions by 2050, as well as commit to adapting to ongoing climate change and provide financial support for developing countries.