COP24: 3 Key Messages From Sir David Attenborough

Updated: Oct 22, 2020

Right now we’re facing a man-made disaster of global scale. Our greatest threat in thousands of years: climate change.

Sir David Attenborough gave a moving speech at the UN Climate Conference COP24 on Monday, 3 December. This was concurrent with the launch of The People’s Seat, a climate action campaign he initiated with the UN (more on this in a bit).

From his 7-minute speech, I gathered three main takeaway points that we should all take heed.

We Need to Accept The Facts

Science has said it. People have felt it. There’s no denying it.

Unless you’re Donald Trump and his followers.

But whatever the deniers say, the facts have shown that climate change is real, it’s happening now, and it’s primarily due to our actions.

We’ve polluted this Earth with our waste, sucked up fossil fuels in such high quantity in a short period of time and destroyed chunks of forest land to make way for industrial production to the extreme extent of farming animals in factories.

All of this for what?

Convenience. Comfort. Capitalism.

Leaders Need to Make Sacrifices

The people know that climate change is happening. Weather patterns have gone haywire in recent years. The arctic ice is melting which is causing sea levels to rise, engulfing small island nations and threatening coastal communities.

Most world leaders living comfortably inland may not be experiencing such calamities. But I’m sure they’re not ignorant to what’s happening to the people in their countries.

The world’s people have spoken, their message is clear – time is running out. They want you, the decision-makers, to act now.

It’s not easy making decisions for an entire nation. But if the people can make sacrifices in their daily lives — sacrificing the convenience of plastic in favour of reusables and meat products in favour of plant foods — then the leaders should show their integrity by sacrificing self-interest in favour of what is right.

They need to listen to the group of people who demand climate justice, not the group of people within large corporations who seek profit and power resulting in destruction.

I think Sir David Attenborough is sending us a cryptic message.

Perhaps he’s telling us what we may already know: that in order to take climate action to the next level, we need to confront the “leaders” who are hungry for power, comfort and security. They may have strong affiliations with corporations with usually selfish agenda that have been feeding them dollars for kissing asses instead of doing the right thing.

Declaring war on climate change might also mean declaring war on the power-hungry corporations.

Every Person Needs to Take Action

A relatively small percentage of us lay people have started various initiatives to make situations better: aiming for zero waste, going vegan, lobbying companies, going to the streets to protest, divesting, etc.

The question is, are our actions enough?

From Sir David Attenborough’s cryptic message, it seems like our day-to-day climate actions won’t be as effective as we’d hope if politicians, large corporations as well as fossil fuel and animal agriculture industries carry on business as usual.

I’m not saying that the bottom-up approach doesn’t work; it has worked.

It’s just that progress feels slow and I fear that our voices may end up in violence, as it has indeed on a small scale, if the top guns don’t cooperate.

The People’s Seat

Hope is not lost, of course. I’m sure there are genuine philanthropists who donate their wealth for the betterment of society and not merely for a boost of ego.

Nevertheless, we the people need to keep our leaders accountable. Yes, we can’t expect immediate change, but we can continue to add pressure using our voices and actions.

That’s why Sir David Attenborough has teamed up with the UN which he believes is a “unique platform that unites the whole world” with the Paris Agreement proving just that.

The People’s Seat initiative was launched to allow citizens of the world to use social media to empower themselves and each other. With that, an “” was launched to gather people’s opinions on the matter and help them discover everyday actions to tackle climate change.

To show that the people’s voices matter, a video clip of people around the world talking about the issues they face and their hopes to leaders was broadcasted during Sir David’s speech (see video above).

It may seem like just a publicity stunt and I know some are skeptical about the UN as an organisation, but I personally believe that we need a unified body to mobilise such a huge action like changing climate change.

I do believe that the next best thing anyone can do after practising the everyday actions and habits that reduce carbon footprint in their life is to spread the message to the rest of society.

And that’s what I’ve been trying to do.

Featured image by REUTERS/Kacper Pempel


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