David Attenborough Hits The Nail On The Head In COP26 Opening Speech


Tom Hale

Tom is a writer in London with a Master's degree in Journalism whose editorial work covers anything from health and the environment to technology and archaeology.

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David Attenborough speaks at the opening ceremony of the COP26 Climate Change Conference in Glasgow on 01/11/2021. Image credit: Andrew Parsons/No 10 Downing Street/Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

A number of world leaders and important voices gave their speeches at the COP26’s opening day this afternoon, but few put it better than the legendary evangelist of the natural world, Sir David Attenborough. 

While Attenborough believes that things are currently not looking optimistic, he insists we should not feel too doomed and dispirited. After all, in his words, humans are “the greatest problem solvers to have ever existed on Earth."


"If, working apart, we are a force powerful enough to destabilize the planet, then surely working together we are a force powerful enough to save it," he added. 

Speaking at the COP26 opening ceremony on Monday afternoon, the 95-year-old broadcaster told the crowd of world leaders and delegates that humanity has placed itself in great danger by “breaking” the climate of the Earth. He paints a picture where, some 10,000 years ago, the Ice Age ended and life on Earth was blessed with a relatively stable climate. This unusual stability allowed humanity to flourish — but our progress has now taken a worrying path, paving towards our downfall.

“Everything we have achieved in the last 10,000 years has been enabled because of the [climate] stability during this time," Attenborough continued.

“The global temperature has not wavered over this period by more than either plus or minus one-degree Celsius [1.8° F]. Until now."


“We are already in trouble. The stability we all depend on is breaking,” he stressed.


Attenborough highlighted that inequality is an inseparable part of this problem, noting “those who have done the least to cause this problem are among those to be hardest hit. Ultimately, all of us will feel the impacts, some of which are now unavoidable.” He adds that the necessary process of decarbonizing the planet needs to ensure “none are left behind.” 

He continues: “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 that the people most affected by climate change are no longer 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,” he added.


He concluded his speech by turning the audience, pleading; “That desperate hope... is why the world is looking to you and why you are here.”


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