TV Editor Morgana Chess identifies how David Attenborough’s latest documentary is the climate change wake up call that viewers desperately need
Viewers are lured into watching the BBC’s one-hour special Climate Change – The Facts with the promise of David Attenborough’s soothing tones and comforting narration. They’re in for a rude awakening. The days of snuggling up with a cuppa to watch Planet Earth and contentedly marvel at the wonders of the natural world, are gone. Instead, Attenborough is getting serious and viewers are confronted with the very real problem of our rapidly warming planet. The 92-year-old national treasure is joined by a host of environmental scientists to convey the brutal fact that the Earth is now one degree celsius warmer than it was in pre-industrial times, and it is humans who are responsible. Whilst this change may appear incremental, the documentary reveals how it has devastating effects on the environment. Droughts. Wildfires. Melting ice caps. Bleached coral reefs. The viewer is immediately faced with distressing footage of natural disasters from across the world. As Attenborough states, ‘the evidence is now unequivocal’ – and humanity has really messed up.
At the same time that the show airs, Attenborough’s latest docu-series Our Planet has also just been released on Netflix. Whilst this looks like the same beautiful nature documentary that we have come to know and love, there is a new urgency in its tone, as Attenborough turns his attention to the most dangerous predator of all – man. This message is made more poignant as both television shows are released against the backdrop of the Extinction Rebellion in the UK, as climate change begins to enter headlines and be taken seriously as a real issue. The Metro reports ‘the Attenborough Effect’, and how David’s documentaries have played a significant role in the nation’s reduction of single-use plastic. There is hope that Climate Change – The Facts might have the same effect, except this time there’s no carrot – it’s all stick. The documentary emphasises how the power is with the people, and it goes beyond individual actions. Big corporations and governments need to make a change towards more sustainable solutions, and viewers are alarmingly shown how scientists warned of the dangers of climate change thirty years ago – but nobody listened. Instead, it was in the interest of fossil fuel companies to deny such evidence, and it is worrying to still see powerful figures like the President of the United States dismiss climate change as ‘a hoax’.
The documentary emphasises how it is poorer areas that are hit first and hit hardest by the effects of climate change, with whole communities being displaced by rising sea levels in places like Indonesia and Bangladesh. According to the documentary, a whole football field of land in Louisiana, United States is being lost every 45 minutes due to climate change, leading to the very real problem of ‘climate refugees’ in Trump’s very own back garden. It is clear that the problem can no longer be ignored and there is an urgent call to turn things around; ‘The costs of action are dwarfed by the costs of inaction’.
The documentary encourages the switch to renewable energy sources, reducing meat and dairy consumption, reforesting, and a general move away from the modern, wasteful lifestyle. Attenborough presents viewers with an uncomfortable truth and Climate Change – The Facts is a call to arms. Will we listen?