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David Attenborough Gives Stark Warning in New BBC Climate Change Special

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IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde (L) and broadcaster and natural historian David Attenborough take part in a discussion on nature and the economy in Washington, DC, April 11. MANDEL NGAN / AFP / Getty Images

Beloved nature broadcaster Sir David Attenborough narrated a BBC documentary on climate change Thursday that Guardian reviewer Rebecca Nicholson said aimed to encourage action around climate the way that Attenborough's Blue Planet II galvanized the world against single-use plastic.


The hour-long program, called Climate Change—The Facts, marked Attenborough's strongest warning to date on the dangers posed by global warming, BBC News reported.

"In the 20 years since I first started talking about the impact of climate change on our world, conditions have changed far faster than I ever imagined," Attenborough said in the film. "It may sound frightening, but the scientific evidence is that if we have not taken dramatic action within the next decade, we could face irreversible damage to the natural world and the collapse of our societies."


The program looked at the impacts of climate change, showing footage of people fleeing wildfires in the U.S. and highlighting how sea level rise is forcing the residents of Isle de Jean Charles in Louisiana to leave their homes. It also spoke to scientists studying ice melt in Greenland and Antarctica.

"In the last year we've had a global assessment of ice losses from Antarctica and Greenland and they tell us that things are worse than we'd expected," University of Leeds Prof. Andrew Shepherd said.

The documentary was also upfront about the role of the fossil fuel industry, Nicholson wrote, explaining that it was the most profitable business in human history and that its companies consulted with the same people who advised the tobacco industry in order to develop PR campaigns that spread doubt and slow down action.

The program also proposed solutions, such as renewable energy, carbon capture technologies and political action.

The documentary featured 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, whose one-person school strikes for climate action sparked a global youth movement, Newsweek reported.

"My future and everyone else's future is at risk and nothing is being done, no one is doing anything, so then I have to do something," Thunberg said.

The program aired in the UK as the fourth day of Extinction Rebellion protests blocked busy streets in central London. The combination of the headlines generated by the protesters, who want the UK government to reach net-zero emissions by 2025, and the Attenborough program, worked to increase media coverage of climate change in the UK, The Guardian reported.

BBC Presenter and environmentalist Chris Packham said the BBC was giving more attention to the environmental crisis.

"They [the BBC] are certainly making sure they are moving away from criticism levelled at them in the last few years of only showing a rose-tinted view of the natural world," Packham said.

In recent years, two complaints against the network's Radio 4 Today program have been upheld due to interviews with climate denier Nigel Lawson that did not adequately challenge him on the facts.

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