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Sir David Attenborough's stark four-word message to world leaders at Davos

Tom Belger
Finance and policy reporter
Sir David Attenborough addresses Davos 2019 at the World Economic Forum (WEF). Photo: REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

Sir David Attenborough has delivered a powerful four-word message to global leaders assembled at Davos as he unveiled his new Netflix documentary Our Planet.

Former US vice-president and climate campaigner Al Gore asked the hugely respected British naturalist and broadcaster at the World Economic Forum (WEF) summit what he would say to any head of state not doing enough to tackle climate change.

“Think of the children,” replied Attenborough immediately. “Think of your children, and your children’s children.

“What we are doing to our planet at the moment, could you look them in the eye and say – ‘I knew what could be done to stop degradation of the environment and the planet, but it was too difficult and rather boring, and I failed to do it.  And you are now going to take the consequences.'”

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The event at the Davos conference in Switzerland also featured a preview video of a new eight-part documentary narrated by Attenborough, which is set to reach a global audience when it airs later this year on Netflix.

Sir David Attenborough and Prince William at the Davos conference. Photo: REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann TPX.

Attenborough used the appearance to make an impassioned plea to both global business and political leaders and the public about the need for urgent action to save the natural world.

Asked by Al Gore, who was moderating the event, how serious climate change was and why people had failed to act, Attenborough answered: “I can’t imagine anything more serious. The trouble is that change is accelerating.

“Things are getting worse faster than they were. But the maddening thing is that we now know how to deal with it – we’ve just got to do something.

“We prefer comfort than challenge, in truth. A lot of us do the same in our private lives.

“It’s much easier to say it doesn’t really matter, and it’s not really happening anyway. But to look at the consequences of what is happening is the adult thing to do, and the thing we have to do now,” Attenborough told guests.

The broadcaster, who made his first nature film in the 1950s, also highlighted the way technology had changed from the era when his team used clockwork cameras.

“Now with what we can deploy there’s nothing on this planet we can’t film,” he added.

When the former US vice president thanked him for helping humanity see how it could act rather than “moving from denial to despair”, Attenborough replied with a smile: “Well you started it.

“Let us pay respect and thanks to you, because you sounded the alarm a long time ago.”

It came after Attenborough was interviewed by the British royal family’s Prince William earlier in the day at another Davos event.

One of the most powerful moments came when the royal asked the broadcaster for any advice to his generation.

“We have to recognise that every breath we take, every mouthful of food that we take, comes from the natural world. If we damage the natural world, we damage ourselves.

“We are one coherent eco-system. It’s not just a question of beauty or interest or wonder; the essential ingredient of human life is a healthy planet. We are in danger of wrecking that.”

He also used a speech yesterday to assembled world leaders, who have been criticised for reportedly arriving at the summit on private jets in record numbers, to warn: “The garden of Eden is no more.”

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