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David Attenborough Gives Stark Warning in New BBC Climate Change Special
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.
"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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The rallying cry to build it again and to build it better than before is inspiring after a natural disaster, but it may not be the best course of action, according to new research published in the journal Science.
"Faced with global warming, rising sea levels, and the climate-related extremes they intensify, the question is no longer whether some communities will retreat—moving people and assets out of harm's way—but why, where, when, and how they will retreat," the study begins.
The researchers suggest that it is time to rethink retreat, which is often seen as a last resort and a sign of weakness. Instead, it should be seen as the smart option and an opportunity to build new communities.
"We propose a reconceptualization of retreat as a suite of adaptation options that are both strategic and managed," the paper states. "Strategy integrates retreat into long-term development goals and identifies why retreat should occur and, in doing so, influences where and when."
The billions of dollars spent to rebuild the Jersey Shore and to create dunes to protect from future storms after Superstorm Sandy in 2012 may be a waste if sea level rise inundates the entire coastline.
"There's a definite rhetoric of, 'We're going to build it back better. We're going to win. We're going to beat this. Something technological is going to come and it's going to save us,'" said A.R. Siders, an assistant professor with the disaster research center at the University of Delaware and lead author of the paper, to the New York Times. "It's like, let's step back and think for a minute. You're in a fight with the ocean. You're fighting to hold the ocean in place. Maybe that's not the battle we want to pick."
Rethinking retreat could make it a strategic, efficient, and equitable way to adapt to the climate crisis, the study says.
Dr. Siders pointed out that it has happened before. She noted that in the 1970s, the small town of Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin moved itself out of the flood plain after one too many floods. The community found and reoriented the business district to take advantage of highway traffic and powered it entirely with solar energy, as the New York Times reported.
That's an important lesson now that rising sea levels pose a catastrophic risk around the world. Nearly 75 percent of the world's cities are along shorelines. In the U.S. alone coastline communities make up nearly 40 percent of the population— more than 123 million people, which is why Siders and her research team are so forthright about the urgency and the complexities of their findings, according to Harvard Magazine.
Some of those complexities include, coordinating moves across city, state or even international lines; cultural and social considerations like the importance of burial grounds or ancestral lands; reparations for losses or damage to historic practices; long-term social and psychological consequences; financial incentives that often contradict environmental imperatives; and the critical importance of managing retreat in a way that protects vulnerable and poor populations and that doesn't exacerbate past injustices, as Harvard Magazine reported.
If communities could practice strategic retreats, the study says, doing so would not only reduce the need for people to choose among bad options, but also improve their circumstances.
"It's a lot to think about," said Siders to Harvard Magazine. "And there are going to be hard choices. It will hurt—I mean, we have to get from here to some new future state, and that transition is going to be hard.…But the longer we put off making these decisions, the worse it will get, and the harder the decisions will become."
To help the transition, the paper recommends improved access to climate-hazard maps so communities can make informed choices about risk. And, the maps need to be improved and updated regularly, the paper said as the New York Times reported.
"It's not that everywhere should retreat," said Dr. Siders to the New York Times. "It's that retreat should be an option. It should be a real viable option on the table that some places will need to use."
Leaked documents show that Jair Bolsonaro's government intends to use the Brazilian president's hate speech to isolate minorities living in the Amazon region. The PowerPoint slides, which democraciaAbierta has seen, also reveal plans to implement predatory projects that could have a devastating environmental impact.
Last week we received positive news on the border wall's imminent construction in an Arizona wildlife refuge. The Trump administration delayed construction of the wall through about 60 miles of federal wildlife preserves.
It's become a familiar story with the Trump administration: Scientists write a report that shows the administration's policies will cause environmental damage, then the administration buries the report and fires the scientists.