Leading article

High time for action on climate change

There is overwhelming evidence to support the assertion yesterday from the revered naturalist Sir David Attenborough that climate change represents humanity's greatest threat in thousands of years.

The veteran broadcaster was speaking at the the opening ceremony of United Nations-sponsored climate talks in Katowice, Poland, regarded as the most critical gathering of its kind since the 2015 Paris agreement.

Sir David painted a compelling scenario in which a failure to respond decisively would lead to the extinction of most of the natural world and ultimately the collapse of our civilisations.

The UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, offered a similar assessment, declaring that climate change was already a matter of `life and death' for many countries and the global transition to a low-carbon economy was hugely behind schedule.

Some of the most alarming statistics under consideration at the conference were provided by the World Meteorological Organisation, and confirmed that the 20 warmest years on record have all been in the last 22 years.

Scientists are pointing to rising sea levels, ocean acidification and glacier melt as firm examples of climate change, and have calculated that greenhouse gas concentrations are also at an historic high.

It should be obvious that united international cooperation is urgently required, but disgracefully President Donald Trump in 2017 withdraw the US from the measures introduced at Paris two years previously.

Although his decision does not take effect until 2020, and American negotiators are still due to participate in the Katowice proceedings, Mr Trump's typically maverick stance sends out entirely the wrong message.

One of the few voices outside the US to support Mr Trump's policy has been the DUP MP Sammy Wilson, who has claimed that the debate on man-made climate change is a `gigantic con' and a `hysterical semi religion'.

The public must decide whether the detailed arguments of Sir David Attenborough or the colourful outbursts of Mr Wilson represent the way ahead.

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