David Attenborough Says U.S. Attitude on Climate Change Is 'Outdated' and 'Will Be Overcome'

David Attenborough said Donald Trump and the United States’ attitude toward climate change was outdated and “will be overcome” in an interview with the BBC program Newsnight.

The 92-year-old broadcaster and naturalist, whose documentaries address issues facing the environment, said that up until around five years ago he felt “very pessimistic” about the state of the planet and mankind’s impact on it. However, the Paris Agreement changed his mind.

“[It] seemed at the time to be—at last—nations coming to their senses,” he said.

Following the election of President Donald Trump, the United States withdrew from the agreement and the commitments made by Trump's predecessor, Barack Obama. “The Paris climate accord is simply the latest example of Washington entering into an agreement that disadvantages the United States to the exclusive benefit of other countries,” Trump said at the time. “The United States will cease all implementation of the non-binding Paris Accord and the draconian financial and economic burdens the agreement imposes on our country.”

The move was widely condemned by scientists and environmentalists. Former United Nations secretary Ban Ki-moon told The Guardian the decision posed a “serious problem” that damaged the global effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Attenborough, however, was less concerned with Trump’s decisions. “It is true that Donald Trump doesn't go along with [the Paris Agreement], and to what extent the United States is going to withdraw from it, we'll see,” he said. “My suspicion is that people will realize that actually the United States—that attitude—is outdated and doesn't apply anymore, and I think will be overcome.”

Attenborough also said that humans need to limit the global population. It is estimated that by 2100 there will be 11.2 billion people living on Earth. That, Attenborough said, is partly because people are living longer than ever before. He said that to some extent the population problem will stabilize naturally—but that it would probably be “at a rather higher level than the Earth can really accommodate.”

Attenborough’s comments arrived as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its report into the current state of the Paris Agreement. Jim Skea, co-chair of IPCC’s Working Group, said that if we are to meet the target to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Centigrade, “unprecedented changes” would have to be made.

The report found that anthropogenic emissions would need to reach “net zero” by 2050 if we are to meet this target. This would mean any emissions would have to be balanced out by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. “Limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Centigrade is possible within the laws of chemistry and physics, but doing so would require unprecedented changes,” Skea said in a statement.

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