'Civilisation will quickly break down' if we don't stop climate change, Sir David Attenborough warns

Sir David Attenborough talks to Boris Johnson.
Sir David Attenborough talks to Boris Johnson. Photo credit: Getty

British naturalist Sir David Attenborough warned on Tuesday that climate change is the biggest security threat that modern humans have ever faced, telling the UN Security Council: "I don't envy you the responsibility that this places on all of you."

Sir David, 94, the world's most influential wildlife broadcaster, addressed a virtual meeting of the 15-member council on climate-related risks to international peace and security, chaired by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

"If we continue on our current path, we will face the collapse of everything that gives us our security: food production, access to fresh water, habitable ambient temperature and ocean food chains," Sir David said.

"And if the natural world can no longer support the most basic of our needs, then much of the rest of civilisation will quickly break down," he added.

With the world struggling to cut planet-warming emissions fast enough to avoid catastrophic warming, the United Nations will stage a climate summit in November in Glasgow, Scotland.

It will be the most important gathering since the 2015 event that yielded the Paris Agreement, when nearly 200 countries committed to halt rising temperatures quickly enough to avoid catastrophic change. The November summit serves as a deadline for countries to commit to deeper emissions cuts.

"I know that there are people around the world who will say that this is all kind of green stuff from a bunch of tree-hugging, tofu munchers and not suited to international diplomacy and international politics," Johnson told the council. "I couldn't disagree more profoundly."

The Paris accord aims to cap the rise in temperatures to "well below" 2C and as close as possible to 1.5C to avoid the most devastating impacts of climate change.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres pushed countries, companies, cities and financial institutions to make ambitious commitments to cut global emissions. China and the United States are the world's biggest emitters of greenhouse gases.

"We still have a long way to go, and we look to the major emitters to lead by example in the coming months," Guterres told the council. "This is a credibility test of their commitment to people and planet. It is the only way we will keep the 1.5-degree goal within reach."

Reuters