Sir David Attenborough has warned of a “man-made disaster on a global scale” and a “devastating future” if action is not taken to combat climate change.
The veteran broadcaster delivers a stark warning in the new BBC documentary Climate Change: The Facts.
He says: “Right now, we are facing our greatest threat in thousands of years. Climate change.
“Scientists across the globe are in no doubt that at the current rate of warming we risk a devastating future.
“The science is now clear that urgent action is needed.
“What happens now and in these next few years will profoundly affect the next few thousand years.
“What can be done to avert disaster and ensure the survival of our civilisations and the natural world upon which we depend?
“We are facing a man-made disaster on a global scale.
“In the 20 years since I first started talking about the impact of climate change on our world, conditions have changed far faster than I ever imagined
“It may sound frightening but the scientific evidence is that if we have not taken dramatic action within the next decade we could face irreversible damage of the natural world, and the collapse of our societies.
“We are running out of time but there is still hope. I believe that if we better understand the threat we face, the more likely it is that we can avoid such a catastrophic future.
“Our climate is changing because of one simple fact … our world is getting hotter.”
The warming can be attributed to carbon dioxide being pumped into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels, scientists in the documentary say.
Sir David adds: “I’ve seen for myself that in addition to the many other threats they face, animals of all kinds are now struggling to adapt to rapidly changing conditions
“Scientists believe that 8% of species are now at threat of extinction solely due to climate change.
“This isn’t just about losing wonders of nature. With the loss of even smallest organisms we destabilise and ultimately risk collapsing the world’s ecosystems – the networks that support the whole of life on Earth.
“As temperatures rise, the threats we face multiply.”
Addressing why so little has been done to combat climate change, Richard Black, director of the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, says: “There was resistance, let’s be honest about this… there are incumbent industries that… knew about climate change, but they didn’t really want anything to happen.”
Naomi Oreskes, professor of the history of science, says: “The organisations that had the most to lose by acting on climate change were the fossil fuel companies, the most profitable industry possibly in the history of mankind, making huge profits. They wanted to continue that.
“The basic strategy is to cast doubt on the science.”
Sir David says there is still reason to be optimistic, adding: “We now stand at a unique point in our planet’s history, one where we must all share responsibility both for our present well-being and for the future of life on Earth.
“Every one of us has the power to make changes and make them now. Our wonderful natural world and the lives of our children, grandchildren and all those who follow them depend upon us doing so.”
Climate Change: The Facts airs on April 18 on BBC One at 9pm.