Renowned naturalist, author and broadcaster Sir David Attenborough has delivered a broadside to the Australian government over its environmental record. Speaking on the ABC, the country’s national broadcaster, the veteran conservationist told the program the current federal government prioritized coal over meaningful action on climate change.
“You are the keepers of an extraordinary section of the surface of this planet, including the Barrier Reef, and what you say, what you do, really, really matters,” he told the ABC’s youth-orientated Hack radio program.
“And then you suddenly say, ‘No it doesn’t matter … it doesn’t matter how much coal we burn … we don’t give a damn what it does to the rest of the world.'”
Sir David Attenborough spoke before the global school strikes for climate and threw his support behind young people making their voices heard. He stressed the importance of young people “who are going to inherit the mess that we’ve made” saying the climate strikes are an excellent way to get politicians to sit up and take notice of the climate emergency.
“If they just sit on the sidelines, and [debate] in a nice, reasonable way, you know, they’ll say, ‘oh kids’. But if they actually do something in the way that they have been doing in this era, then politicians have to sit up and take notice.”
“And you can say, ‘It gets you nowhere, just stopping the traffic’. But it gets you noticed. People listen to what you say. And that you’re important,” he said.
Sir David was also critical of the present government support of the coal industry and spoke scathingly of the now-infamous incident when then Treasurer Scott Morrison brandished a lump of coal in Parliament.
“I don’t think it was a joke,” the famous naturalist said.
Any hope the Australian prime minister would heed calls by the schools strike for climate and that of Sir David were scotched this week as Morrison called such criticisms “misrepresentations”.
“Australia’s internal and global critics on climate change willingly overlook or ignore our achievements, as the facts simply don’t fit the narrative they wish to project about our contribution,” he told the UN General Assembly last week. “Australia is responsible for just 1.3% of global emissions. Australia is doing our bit on climate change and we reject any suggestion to the contrary.”
Morrison had declined to attend the recent UN climate talks, despite being a short distance away.