A year ago, Attenborough said ‘Climate change is the major challenge facing the world’

August 21, 2007 at 4:22 pm | Posted in Attenborough, Carbon dioxide, Climate change, CO2, Graphs, Hadley Centre, Met Office, Sceptical, Temperatures, Unequivocal | 3 Comments

Here’s an example of a person who has experienced the variety of the natural world in ways most of us could only dream of, and deliberately took his time to come to a conclusion about climate change—because he did not want to alarm anyone unnecessarily—but he did finally make a decision based on the balance of evidence, as we all should in due course.

David Attenborough has spent his lifetime exploring the natural world, and was sceptical about mankind’s responsibility for the current climate change until last year, when he saw the graphs (like these presented by Peter Cox of the Met Office


and made this statement.

Now Sir David is completely convinced of the reality and danger nature of the matter we struggle with. In fact, he said,

“I’m no longer sceptical. Now I do not have any doubt at all. I think climate change is the major challenge facing the world. I have waited until the proof was conclusive that it was humanity changing the climate.”

Good for him. Sir David had the opportunity to meet climate scientists and modellers on a visit to the Hadley Centre in Exeter and could see for himself the outputs from models, and understand the way climate modelling has advanced over the past three decades, as described here. Some people would need the same kind of privileged immersion with experts before they would come to believe what they do not want to believe.

The interesting thing is that the same kind of change, from ignorance through scepticism to an appreciation of the problem we face, happened to Jonathan Ross through his hosting of the LiveEarth concert at Wembley. It takes courage to change your mind when you are as public a figure as these presenters.

Unfortunately, it is easier to doubt or ignore a far-off threat, than to change our ways. On top of that, some peer groups consider it cool or sophisticated to be sceptical about one aspect or another of climate change, and indeed begin their conversations by stating that attribution of emissions to humans is not a topic they want to get into except to say that pollution is bound to worsen as population explodes …



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  1. Sir David is the most incredible scientist and presenter of nature programmes. A credit to Britain and it’s education system. He’s right, things certainly are out of control;


  2. […] that. Anyway, you can find out more about Sir David’s commitment to our climate challenge here, and also watch embedded Google videos for Part I: Are We Changing Planet Earth? and Part II: Can […]

  3. I believe there may be another element to Sir David’s initial silence on climate change. Yes, it takes incredible courage for such public figures to change their views, but when they decline to comment on important topics, it also shows great responsibility.
    Sir David isn’t “just” the man who gave us ‘Life on Earth’ as is often perceived. He, more than almost anyone else, created the BBC’s early reputation for educational programming. He turned down the post of Director General of BBC2 (having created programmes that convinced his bosses that intelligent broadcasts were worth funding) so that he could continue to make documentaries.
    No matter how self-effacing he may be, he’s surely aware that his voice adds incredible weight to any environmental argument. If Sir David says it’s so, some people might not get funding to investigate the matter properly – so it makes sense that he would wait until scientific evidence is beyond reasonable doubt before taking a stand.

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