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Climate Change: The Facts (BBC) - Review

David Attenborough

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 5 out of 5

IN 2005, David Attenborough wrote that he had initially been sceptical about climate change. He was cautious about crying wolf. His big moment of realisation came in 2004.

But even then, Attenborough has moved slowly, keen not to open himself up to easy criticism. His wildlife shows have tried to combine the beauty of the natural world with warnings about its future. But these have often come as footnotes.

Now, though, he has positioned himself front and centre of the fight to get things changed. As the figurehead of Climate Change: The Facts he was no longer beating around the bush. At the top of the hour-long documentary, he described global warming as “our greatest threat in thousands of years”.

He then proceeded to present some terrifying facts. The world is warming faster than it ever has before. Twenty of the warmest years on record happened in the last 22 years. Extreme weather events such as last summer’s UK heatwave, or the catastrophic forest fires that swept through California last year, are becoming more commonplace.

Greenland’s ice sheet is melting five times faster than it was 25 years ago, which coupled with the continued melting of the polar regions is contributing to rising sea levels and the disappearance of land, of people’s homes, of livelihoods.

Even if the warming of the planet doesn’t prove cataclysmic, there will be wider effects. Some species will disappear, upsetting eco-systems. Food will be harder to grow. These are facts that cannot be ignored, particularly as time is running out to do anything about it.

But – and this is a big but – the world has to act together. It has to put business concerns to one side. It has to engage youth to turn the tide.

Footage of US President Donald Trump declaring climate change to be “a hoax” and “a money-making industry” would be laughable if they weren’t so serious. With powerful figures like him leading the counter-offensive, it’s little wonder that the need to press the issue has become so urgent and so extreme.

The time for gentle persuasion is over, particularly as there are PR companies engaging in their own offensives to persuade people otherwise (engaging the same tactics and companies as the tobacco companies did).

We almost need to be force-fed the worst case scenarios, the most distressing images. The sight of Walruses plunging from clifftops to their deaths on Netflix’s Our Planet had already got tongues wagging. Climate Change‘s big moment came with footage from Cairns, Australia, where flying foxes were unable to survive the extreme temperatures last year. While rescuers saved 350, 11,000 died – their corpses heaped into wheel-barrows to be disposed of by distraught workers.

Footage of the intensity of forest fires, as captured by a father and son fortunate enough to have escaped, was similarly terrifying, as were satellite images of changing landscapes – of heat zones, in particular.

And yet there is hope. There is a very real movement engaged in forcing change, of confronting the big businesses (the fossil fuel companies) and petitioning Parliaments across the world. Perhaps most encouragingly, a lot of these people seem to be young – schoolchildren age.

But there were reminders that everyone can contribute. Households can do their share by eating all of the food they purchase, insulating their homes better and keeping themselves educated. The important thing to remember is that there is still time.

But indifference is mistrust of the facts will spell disaster.

Climate Change: The Facts was sobering TV. But it was also downright essential. We can only hope that Attenborough’s faith in humanity is not misplaced.