Sir David Attenborough warns of climate change threat from coronavirus as politicians ‘take their eyes off the ball’

Sir David Attenborough has warned the global Covid-19 pandemic poses a threat to the environment as politicians “take their eyes off” climate change issues in order to deal with the health and economic crisis.

The 94-year-old naturalist and broadcaster also heaped praise on teenage climate change activist Greta Thunberg, saying she had given the world “hope” by energising young people to fight for the environment.

Sir David said several international climate conferences, such as COP26, had been cancelled because of Covid-19 and he feared people would have other priorities.

“I am worried that people will take their eyes off the environmental issue because of the immediate problems they have on Covid-19,” he said.

Sir David Attenborough. Photo: PA

“It’s put off a series of conferences in which all the nations get together and talk.”

Sir David, who recently launched his new film A Life On Our Planet, appeared with 17-year-old Thunberg at Wildscreen, a virtual wildlife film festival being held in Bristol.

Speaking from his home in London, he heaped praise on the Swedish teenager and said her campaigning had made other young people demand action to stop climate change.

“If there is any sign of hope, and there is to be truthful compared to what there was 25 years ago, it’s because of what you’ve done and what you’ve done for young people,” he said.

“Young people around the world are really, really going for it now because of you.

“The world owes you a lot and I hope you are not paying too high a price for it, and it looks from what you are saying that you are managing to survive alright.”

He said that his television work and Thunberg’s campaigning had helped to shape public opinion and demand politicians take action.

“We have to understand that if we are going to do something it is going to cost taxes and we are going to have to give up as well as take,” he said.

“In the end it has to be a political decision to save the world. There has to be give and take between nations and the electorate.

“If you’re faced with a crisis of the proportion of the epidemic they’re facing, it’s difficult to lift your eyes from immediate problems.

“But we have to do that, we really, really have to do that and I think the future of the world depends on it.”

Thunberg, who was speaking from her home in Sweden, said that since she has become known around the world for her activism people are talking about her instead of climate change.

“It just escalated so much, and it feels like instead of focusing on the actual fire, we were spending all our time debating about the fire alarm,” she said.

“It takes away focus from the climate process.

“All we are trying to do is raise public awareness and create public opinion. It is after all public opinion which runs the free world and that is one of the biggest sources of hope right now.

“If enough people become aware and if enough people put enough pressure on people in power and the elected officials then they will have to do something because the politicians job is to get elected and to do as the voters ask.”

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