Boris Johnson Compares World's Climate Situation to James Bond Attempt to Diffuse a Bomb

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson compared efforts to remedy the worsening climate situation to James Bond attempting to defuse a "doomsday device" strapped to the Earth, the Associated Press reported.

Johnson made the comments Monday at the opening of the United Nations climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland, where world leaders have gathered to discuss their visions for curbing global warming.

One goal is to agree to limit warming to 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit. The climate has already warmed by 2 degrees, and projections indicate that planned emissions cuts globally would allow warming to reach 4.9 degrees F by 2100, the AP said.

Johnson, meanwhile, called for immediate action, noting that the 130 world leaders at the summit were over 60 years old on average, while the generations that stand to suffer the most from climate change have yet to be born. To begin to address the crisis, coal-fired power plants and gasoline-powered cars would need to be phased out, and the wealthier nations would need to funnel money to poorer countries to help them become greener, Johnson said, according to the AP.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

U.N. Climate Summit
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Monday at the U.N. climate conference that global warming was "a doomsday device" strapped to humanity. Above, Johnson and U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres greet President Joe Biden at the COP26 U.N. Climate Summit in Glasgow, Scotland, on Monday. Christopher Furlong/Pool via AP

Britain's leader struck a gloomy note on the eve of the conference after leaders from the Group of 20 major economies made only modest climate commitments at their summit in Rome this weekend.

And that mood got only darker when United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres followed him.

"We are digging our own graves," Guterres said. "Our planet is changing before our eyes—from the ocean depths to mountaintops, from melting glaciers to relentless extreme weather events."

Britain's Prince Charles told the world leaders that they need to "save our precious planet" and that "the eyes and hopes of the world are upon you."

After Johnson, Guterres, Prince Charles and an impassioned 95-year-old Sir David Attenborough, scores of other leaders will traipse to the podium Monday and Tuesday at the climate talks in Scotland and talk about what their country is going to do about the threat of global warming. From U.S. President Joe Biden to Seychelles President Wavel John Charles Ramkalawan, they are expected to say how their nation will do its utmost, challenge colleagues to do more and generally turn up the rhetoric.

The biggest names, including India's Narendra Modi, France's Emmanuel Macron and Ibrahim Solih, president of the hard-hit Maldives, will take the stage Monday.

And then the leaders will leave.

The idea is that they will do the big political give-and-take, setting out broad outlines of agreement, and then have other government officials hammer out the nagging but crucial details. That's what worked to make the historic 2015 Paris climate deal a success, former U.N. Climate Secretary Christiana Figueres told the AP.

"For heads of state, it is actually a much better use of their strategic thinking," Figueres said.

In Paris, the two signature goals—the 1.5-degree Celsius limit and net zero carbon emissions by 2050—were created by this leaders-first process, Figueres said. At the unsuccessful 2009 Copenhagen meeting, the leaders swooped in at the end.

Thousands lined up in a chilly wind in Glasgow on Monday to get through a bottleneck at the entrance to the venue. But what will be noticeable are a handful of major absences at the summit known as COP26.

Xi Jinping, president of top carbon-polluting nation China, won't be in Glasgow. Figueres said his absence isn't that big a deal because he isn't leaving the country during the pandemic and his climate envoy is a veteran negotiator.

Biden, however, has chided China and Russia for their less than ambitious efforts to curb emissions and blamed them for a disappointing G20 statement on climate change.

Perhaps more troublesome for the U.N. summit is the absence of several small nations from the Pacific islands that couldn't make it because of COVID-19 restrictions and logistics. That's a big problem because their voices relay urgency, Figueres said.

In addition, the heads of several major emerging economies beyond China are also skipping the summit, including those from Russia, Turkey, Mexico, Brazil and South Africa. That leaves India's Modi the only leader present from the so-called BRICS nations, which account for more than 40 percent of global emissions.

Kevin Conrad, a negotiator from Papua New Guinea who also chairs the Coalition for Rainforest Nations, said he's watching the big carbon-polluting nations. "I think it's really important for the United States and China to show leadership as the two largest emitters. If both of them can show it can be done, I think they give hope to the rest of the world," he said.

The amount of energy unleashed by such warming would melt much of the planet's ice, raise global sea levels and greatly increase the likelihood and intensity of extreme weather, experts say.

But before the U.N. climate summit, the G20 leaders, at the close of their meeting, offered vague climate pledges instead of commitments of firm action, saying they would seek carbon neutrality "by or around mid-century." The countries also agreed to end public financing for coal-fired power generation abroad but set no target for phasing out coal domestically—a clear nod to China and India.

The G20 countries represent more than three-quarters of the world's climate-damaging emissions and summit host Italy, and Britain, which is hosting the Glasgow conference, had been hoping for more ambitious targets coming out of Rome.

India, the world's third-biggest emitter, has yet to follow China, the U.S. and the European Union in setting a target for reaching "net zero" emissions. Negotiators are hoping Modi will announce such a goal in Glasgow.

The Biden administration has tried hard to temper expectations that two weeks of climate talks will produce major breakthroughs on cutting climate-damaging emissions.

Rather than a quick fix, "Glasgow is the beginning of this decade race, if you will," Biden's climate envoy, John Kerry, told reporters Sunday.

Johnson Speaks at COP26
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during the opening ceremony of the COP26 U.N. Climate Summit in Glasgow, Scotland, on Monday. Alberto Pezzali/AP Photo