David Attenborough warns climate change ‘swept off front pages’ by Covid-19

David Attenborough has said the coronavirus pandemic has swept the problem of climate change from the front pages.

The broadcaster and naturalist, who celebrated his 94th birthday in May, said the outbreak has made the issue feel as if it is in “the distant future”.

Appearing on the So Hot Right Now podcast, Mr Attenborough suggested the virus could make the world’s nations see “survival depends on co-operation”.

<figcaption class='imgFCap'>Hosts Lucy Siegle and Tom Mustill (Zoe Law/PA)</figcaption>
Hosts Lucy Siegle and Tom Mustill (Zoe Law/PA)

He said: “The trouble is that right now the climate issue is also seen as being rather in the distant future because we’ve got the virus to think about.

“And so what are the papers full of? The virus. Quite right, that’s what I want to know about, too.

“But we have to make sure that this issue, which was coming to the boil with the next COP meeting in Glasgow, has suddenly been swept off the front pages. And we’ve got to get it back there.”

Mr Attenborough referenced the COP26 international climate talks, which were due to take place in Glasgow in November but were postponed due to the pandemic.

<figcaption class='imgFCap'>David is the first guest speaker on the podcast (So Hot Right Now/PA)</figcaption>
David is the first guest speaker on the podcast (So Hot Right Now/PA)

Asked whether he saw a solution to the decreased awareness of climate change, he said: “No, if I knew that I would be a dictator but I’m not.

“I don’t know – we, you and me and lots of others like us have got to keep on going on about it but the clock is ticking.

“The danger of the Arctic and the Antarctic warming is becoming greater day by day.”

Mr Attenborough said he hopes the outbreak encourages nations to work together but suggested this would be the first time it had ever happened.

He told journalist Lucy Siegle and film-maker Tom Mustill, who host the podcast: “What the result of coronavirus is going to be I don’t know.

“But I’m beginning to get a feeling that for the first time the nations of the world are beginning to see that survival depends on co-operation.

“If that happens, that’s going to be a first in human history.”

<figcaption class='imgFCap'>The broadcaster described Greta Thunberg as ‘extremely well informed’ (Ben Birchall/PA)</figcaption>
The broadcaster described Greta Thunberg as ‘extremely well informed’ (Ben Birchall/PA)

Mr Attenborough praised climate activist Greta Thunberg, 17, for galvanising the youth and following the science.

He said: “I think she’s very remarkable. And what is more she is, with all that power, she is nonetheless extremely modest.

“She is extremely well informed. But she’s also very modest. And she keeps saying: Look, the only guide has to be the science, we must follow what the science says.”

He defended Thunberg against her critics and suggested they are not “particularly well informed”.

He said: “Yes, well that’s the way it is. That’s the way life is, that’s the way society is.

“And in fact if you aren’t particularly well informed about the natural world, and the minute you find that you can’t get to your work to do what you want to do, or what you need to do to earn a living, because somebody has stopped you because they are talking about an issue you don’t know about, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that there will be some people as a consequence of that who will act in an outraged way.”

Mr Attenborough is the first guest to appear on the So Hot Right Now podcast, about communication and climate change.

His episode will be available from Tuesday on all podcast platforms.

Former president of Ireland Mary Robinson, singer Ellie Goulding and UN climate negotiator Christiana Figueres will also feature in the series.