Attenborough Explores Our Fragile World

September 1, 2007 at 7:22 am | Posted in Attenborough, Climate change, Documentary, Television, TV, UK | 2 Comments

Attenborough highlights the dangers of global warming

Andy Welch

WHEN Sir David Attenborough tells you something, you know it must be true, especially when it concerns nature and the environment.

The Trials Of Life, Blue Planet and more recently Planet Earth have all been landmark series for the BBC, among the finest documentaries in television history.

Talking to him today, as he gears up for UKTV Documentary’s Attenborough Explores Our Fragile World, it is no surprise to find that he comes across as a voice of authority.

The hour-long special aims to highlight the effects of climate change on the UK and convince the sceptics. The world is hotter than ever, there are constant reports of sea waters rising due to ice caps melting, areas of previously lush greenery turning into desert and similarly Armageddon-style scenarios, but somescientists still maintain global warming is merely a natural cycle.

Sir David, however, is in no doubt. “I became convinced of global warming about five years ago,” he says. “We know perfectly well that climate is changeable. For example, we know that in the middle of the 18th century, the River Thames froze over – the British climate has not always been the same.

“What you have to distinguish is whether the variations of what we are seeing are within the parameters of what is normal, and you can’t do that until you have a perspective. You can’t just get up one morning and say ‘yes, I know now that climate change has happened’. You can only detect it by looking at the statistics over a long period of time. It’s now overwhelmingly accepted that global warming is happening.”

The programme will take an in-depth look at what such dramatic changes are doing to animals in our country, including the Snow Bunting.

“Those particular birds used to breed in the Cairngorns, but they’re no longer breeding there because it’s not cold enough; they’re moving off into the Arctic where it’s colder.

“In the last two or three years, sightings of hawk moths have increased considerably, and there are even reports that there are caterpillars of hawk moths, so they’re breeding over here too. Suddenly, we’ve got a new breeding moth in our midst, which is great, and that’s entirely because the climate has changed.”

However pleasing to the eye new species of moth may be, presumably most people would rather do what we can to slow down the process of global warming now, before it’s too late. But what can we do?

“We can all do things, but it’s not popular because it means using smaller cars, not flying everywhere and remembering not to waste energy where we can.

“The Government won’t intervene unless there is a solid surge of opinion among the electorate; they are not going to make decisions that would cause the electorate problems.”

Any action looks like it might come too late for some. “Polar bears are probably doomed to extinction,” says Attenborough candidly. “I don’t know how long they have, but 50 to 100 years I would have thought. Research shows the number of young is falling, as is the survival rate, so it doesn’t look good. News like that will become more and more common.”

• Attenborough Explores Our Fragile World is on UKTV Documentary tomorrow, 8pm. Join Sir David after the programme for a live webchat at 9pm on


P.S. There is an excellent extensive interview with, and backgrounder for, Sir David in The Independent that was published on 27 August 2007.



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  1. Thanks for highlighting this inel although I’m not sure I can get UK Documentary unfortunately. Glad to hear Attenborough is making these programmes though and I hope to see it on a main channel soon.

  2. Hi matt,

    I just discovered we can get UKTV Documentary on SKY channel 532. My sons are amazed that there are five hours of Blue Planet on now—until 2 a.m.— in preparation for tomorrow night’s programme, which I shall watch later in the week. Meanwhile, you can check out this page and send Sir David a question 😉

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