David Attenborough: 'Shameful' that Boris Johnson missed climate debate

PUBLISHED: 10:01 30 November 2019 | UPDATED: 10:31 30 November 2019

David Attenborough has said it is

David Attenborough has said it is "shameful" that Boris Johnson did not attend Channel 4 News' televised climate change debate. Picture: David Parry/PA Wire/PA Images

PA Wire/PA Images

David Attenborough has branded Boris Johnson "shameful" for not attending Thursday's televised climate change general election debate.

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The veteran broadcaster said that the prime minister must have had something "very, very important" in his diary to have been too busy for it.

In an interview to be broadcast tonight on Channel 4 News, Attenborough said that it is "too late" to reverse climate change and that we will be seeing civil unrest and mass migration "on a large scale" within our lifetimes as a result.

Yet he did not think that the current election will leave the public with a better understanding of the climate crisis, despite Thursday's televised debate.

"The fact is that the political parties didn't want to do it," he said.

At the event, Channel 4 News decided to empty-chair no-shows Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage, replacing them with ice sculptures.

Channel 4 replaces PM with melting ice sculpture containing Tory logo during climate debate

On the prime minister's absence, Attenborough said: "I think that is shameful.

"Well, OK, let's not be all that pompous about it. I mean, I don't know what else he had to do, but it would have to be very, very important to dodge this one. I think."

Asked whether politicians were showing genuine determination to tackle the crisis, he said he wished they would take "much more notice".

"Well, I can see that politicians who don't have power can say this should happen tomorrow," he said.

"I think if you are in power, you have to look at consequentials all the time. And the number of occasions, which you say, 'right I would do this tomorrow' is very few and you can't blame them for that."

"I would wish that they took much more notice and they didn't spend ... Let's get over this election anyway and get that sorted out and we will have time. But it's really rather sad that it was just last night or a few nights ago that we had the first debate in the election conversation about climate change."

He also said it was "very difficult" to see real action from politicians - because it is hard to make shifts in policy "by the stroke of a pen".

But, he warned, there are no quick solutions.

People need persuading that the issue "is a serious thing and a continuous thing".

"It isn't one that is subject to a quick solution and will then disappear," he added. "This is going to be with us forever."

He said the fact that climate change is slow acting makes it harder to place the environment high on a political agenda compared to policy areas such as health or defence.

"Unless you've got something really dramatic, like the collapse of a glacier or the switch of ocean currents or something," he said.

He later added: "If you have regular elections every few years no politician thinks about what's going to happen or what will happen or to taking action for something that will happen 10 years off, 15 years off."

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Climate change is now irreversible, he said, but it can be slowed.

"It's too late to reverse it," he said. "Not only in my lifetime, but in the next life-time. I don't think you can reverse it. I think the best we can hope is that we will slow it down and slow it down considerably. If we can do that."

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