Sir David Attenborough has spent the better part of seven decades traversing the planet, documenting the intricacies and curiosities of the natural world. Through that, he’s witnessed the knock-on effects of collapsing ecosystems and environmental devastation wreaked by climate change; a scourge he’s described as “our greatest threat in thousands of years”.
According to the revered natural historian, there are few places on earth where that threat has been more evident to him than Australia. Yet our leaders, he argues, have remained dangerously apathetic.
Speaking to Triple J‘s Hack program on Tuesday afternoon, the 93-year-old BBC presenter said it seemed to him that previous Australian governments had simply been “saying all the right things” on the issue.
However, he pointed to the recent federal election in which Scott Morrison’s Liberal government won on a platform that included support for new coal mines, including the proposed Adani mine in central Queensland.
“You are the keepers of an extraordinary section of the surface of this planet, including the Barrier Reef, and what you say, what you do, really, really matters.
“And when you’ve been upstanding and talking what I see is the truth about what we’re doing to the natural world, and then you suddenly say, ‘No it doesn’t matter … it doesn’t matter how much coal we burn … we don’t give a damn what it does to the rest of the world.’ What do you say?”
Attenborough previously singled out Australia’s inaction on climate change during a July 2019 address to the Commons Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy committee in British parliament.
“I will never forget diving on the [Great Barrier] reef about 10 years ago and suddenly seeing that instead of this multitude of wonderful forms of life, that it was stark white, it had bleached white because of the rising temperatures and the increasing acidity of the sea,” he said.
While he argued that the “voice of disbelief” on climate change should not be stamped out altogether, he pointed to Australia and the US as places where climate change sceptics held positions of considerable power.
“Australia is already facing, having to deal with some of the most extreme manifestations of climate change,” he said.