UN climate talks

British naturalist laments betrayal of the young

Student Greta Thunberg holding a placard reading "School strike for the climate", during a protest against climate change outside the Swedish Parliament in Stockholm last week. The 15-year-old Swede has inspired a global movement of children skipping
Student Greta Thunberg holding a placard reading "school strike for the climate", during a protest against climate change outside the Swedish Parliament in Stockholm last week. PHOTO: EPA-EFE
Student Greta Thunberg holding a placard reading "School strike for the climate", during a protest against climate change outside the Swedish Parliament in Stockholm last week. The 15-year-old Swede has inspired a global movement of children skipping
British Naturalist David Attenborough said on the sidelines of United Nations climate talks in Poland that betrayal of the young generation left him with a sense of "misery".PHOTO: EPA-EFE

They are angry over how older generations have messed up the planet: Attenborough

KATOWICE • Older generations have "messed up the planet", letting down younger people who are "angry" about it and want it to stop, British naturalist David Attenborough said on Monday.

The 92-year-old, who has fronted wildly popular television series documenting nature and the environment, said on the sidelines of United Nations climate talks in Poland that betrayal of the young generation left him with a sense of "misery".

"I have done my best to speak the truth as I see it, but (young people)... know that the world is warming, and science is making it perfectly clear, and they know who is responsible - and that's me and my predecessors, and going back even further than that," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Even though most world leaders have backed the Paris Agreement to tackle climate change, damage to coral reefs, glaciers and forests is still occurring, he added. "This great machine is tumbling on, and we've got to stop it somehow," he said.

The climate talks are tasked with hammering out rules to put the 2015 Paris climate accord into practice.

In the three years since governments adopted the Paris Agreement, the political will to fight climate change has faded, and countries are not delivering on their commitments, UN chief Antonio Guterres told reporters in the city of Katowice.

What is happening on the ground is "worse than predictions", he said, with seas rising faster, ice melting more rapidly, and disasters becoming more dramatic with "terrible consequences", as seen in hurricanes that hit the Caribbean last year.

DIRE CONSEQUENCES

If we don't take action, the collapse of our civilisations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon.

BRITISH NATURALIST DAVID ATTENBOROUGH, who presented a video on the impact of climate change on people at the UN climate talks on Monday.

Greta Thunberg, a 15-year-old Swede who has inspired a global movement of children skipping school to call for action on climate change, met Mr Guterres, telling him world leaders had ignored "countless people" standing up at UN climate summits for 25 years urging them to curb planet-warming emissions.

"I will not beg world leaders to care for our future," she told reporters. "I will instead let them know that change is coming whether they like it or not."

She added: "Our political leaders have failed us."

Ms Kristalina Georgieva, chief executive officer of the World Bank, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that delegates should keep pictures of their children and grandchildren in front of them when negotiating.

At the opening ceremony of the talks on Monday, Mr Attenborough presented a video combining clips uploaded to social media by people from all over the world in the past two weeks, using the Twitter hashtag #TakeYourSeat.

The video shows the effects people are suffering from due to climate change, from worsening wildfires to storms to pollution.

"If we don't take action, the collapse of our civilisations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon," Mr Attenborough warned in the first "People's Seat Address" at the UN climate talks.

 

Alongside his speech, the UN launched Facebook Messenger software that will help people learn what they can do to reduce their carbon footprint, and share with their friends how they are making a difference. The ActNow.bot uses artificial intelligence to engage with users and help answer their questions on climate change issues.

While many people take small actions to fight climate change, "they know perfectly well that, in the end, it has to go through governments, and governments need to hear", Mr Attenborough said.

REUTERS

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 05, 2018, with the headline 'British naturalist laments betrayal of the young'. Print Edition | Subscribe