Some thoughts on David Attenborough’s Climate Change – The Facts
It was only at the weekend that I got to sit down and watch David Attenborough’s Climate Change – The Facts on BBC, because, well.. you know, I know this stuff. The saintly DA has been criticised in the past for not flagging up the threats to the natural world from climate change, and the amazing public reaction to the ocean plastics episode of his Blue Planet II only seemed to fire up the critics more.
I’ve always defended Attenborough on this one. Ocean plastics are tangible – think of the seahorse grasping the cotton bud – whereas climate change is much harder to represent in a televisual way suitable for the viewing masses. But, possibly stung by the criticism, our greatest national treasure pulled his cagoule back on and fronted what was a very well put together programme on climate risks. If it doesn’t have the impact of BPII, then it’s not his fault.
Watching the programme, you would be left in no doubt about the terrible future that awaits us under business as usual. And it was very good on the ‘what should YOU do?’ challenge to individuals, even if it won’t satisfy those demanding a takedown of neoliberalism (whatever that is).
The one criticism I would make is that it was a bit weak on the causality between human activity and rising temperatures. The easiest dismissal of anthropogenic climate change is simply to say “the climate has always changed.” Therefore it is imperative to demonstrate the link, rather than simply saying “this cannot be explained by natural effects alone.” A stronger segment covering ‘how can we tell?’ would have blown that particular myth out of the water – maybe using an animation of a graph such as that below.
Figure 1: Anthropogenic plus natural vs. just natural radiative forcing temperature change vs. observed global surface temperature increase (Meehl 2004)
Apart from that, excellent stuff from a man trusted by so many. A climate sceptic family member said to me “I really should watch that.” I simply can’t imagine him saying this for anybody else other than David Attenborough
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