It's sometimes hard to watch speeches about climate change, but not this one.
The problem often feels too big for one person to understand, let alone make a difference in solving it. But Sir David Attenborough makes it EASY to understand.
Looking at the REALLY long-term history of our planet, there was a time when asteroids and volcanoes made our atmosphere wildly variable. It got really hot and really cold. Then, those things calmed down, and for hundreds and hundreds of years we've had regular, predictable seasons and weather in which much of the planet could grow food and build civilizations.
Since the industrial revolution, we've gone backward. Too much carbon in the atmosphere.
And now we have to fix that. And it is POSSIBLE to do so. And a really good investment.
The text of Attenborough's speech is below. I watched it this morning and feel BETTER and better informed on the topic of climate change than I ever have before. I hope you do, too.
The measure that greatly determines global temperatures and the changes in that one number is the clearest way to chart our own story. For it defines our relationship with our world.
For much of humanity's ancient history, that number bounced wildly between 180 and 300 (parts per million). And so too, did global temperatures. It was a brutal and unpredictable world.
At times, our ancestors existed only in tiny numbers. But just over 10,000 years ago, that number suddenly stabilized and with it, Earth's climate.
We found ourselves in an unusually benign period with predictable seasons and reliable weather. For the first time, civilization was possible and we wasted no time in taking advantage of that.
Everything we've achieved in the last 10,000 years was enabled by the stability in this time. The global temperature over this period has not wavered over this time by more than +/- 1 degree Celsius. Until now.
Our burning of fossil fuels, our destruction of nature, our approach to industry, construction, and learning, are releasing carbon into the atmosphere at an unprecedented pace and scale. We are already in trouble.
The stability we all depend on is breaking. This story is one of inequality as well as instability.
Today, those who've done the least to cause this problem are being the hardest hit. Ultimately all of us will feel the impact, some of which are now unavoidable.
Is this how our story is due to end? A tale of the smartest species doomed by that all-too-human characteristic of failing to see the bigger picture in pursuit of short-term goals.
Perhaps the fact the people most affected by climate change are not some imagined future generation, but young people alive today.
Perhaps that will give us the impetus we need to rewrite our story, to turn this tragedy into a triumph. We are, after all, the greatest problem solvers to have ever existed on Earth.
We now understand this problem, we know how to stop the number rising and put it in reverse.
We must halt carbon emissions this decade. We must recapture billions of tonnes of carbon from the air.
We must fix our sights of keeping 1.5 degrees in reach. A new industrial revolution powered by millions of sustainable innovations is essential and is indeed already beginning.
We will all share in the benefits of affordable clean energy, healthy air and enough food to sustain us all. Nature is a key ally, whenever we restore the wild it will recapture carbon and help us bring back balance to our planet.
As we work to build a better world, we must acknowledge no nation has completed its development because no advanced nation is yet sustainable.
All have a journey still to complete so all that nations have a good standard of living and a modest footprint.
We again have to learn together how to achieve this, ensuring none are left behind. We must use this opportunity to create a more equal world and our motivation should not be fear, but hope.
It comes down to this, the people alive now are the generation to come, will look at this conference and consider one thing: Did that number stop rising and start to drop as a result of commitments made here?
There's every reason to believe that the answer can be yes.
If working apart, we are a force powerful enough to destabilize our planet. Surely working together, we are powerful enough to save it. In my lifetime, I've witnessed a terrible decline.
In your lifetimes, you could and should witness a wonderful recovery. That desperate hope ladies and gentlemen, delegates, excellencies, is why the world is looking to you and why you are here. Thank you.