David Bellamy, the broadcast giant with unfashionable views on climate change

Bellamy has died at the age of 86.
Bellamy has died at the age of 86. Bellamy has died at the age of 86.

David Bellamy was a prolific broadcaster and respected authority on botany and the natural world when, he says, his views on climate change led to him being banished from television.

Flying in the face of prevailing orthodoxy, he dismissed global warming as “poppycock” and said there is “no actual proof” human activity was causing a rise in temperatures.

Bellamy, who died on Wednesday at the age of 86, blamed his views on climate change for the downfall of his TV career and said he became a pariah.

David Bellamy
David Bellamy David Bellamy, the naturalist and broadcaster, has died at the age of 86 (Newscast/PA)

David James Bellamy was born in London in 1933 and was raised in Sutton.

He worked in a factory and as a plumber before meeting his future wife Rosemary.

The couple had five children.

Bellamy studied and later taught botany at Durham University.

Torrey Canyon on fire.
Torrey Canyon on fire. The Torrey Canyon sea drama propelled David Bellamy to greater fame (PA)

He achieved wider recognition following his work on the Torrey Canyon oil spill in 1967.

TV work offers followed, launching his small screen career.

Thanks to his distinctive voice and screen presence, Bellamy quickly became a popular presenter on programmes such as Don’t Ask Me.

David Bellamy death
David Bellamy death Wildlife presenter David Bellamy was once a respected and sought-after authority on environmental issues (Michael Stephens/PA)

He also fronted his own shows, including Bellamy On Botany, Bellamy’s Britain, Bellamy’s Europe and Bellamy’s Backyard Safari.

In 1979 he won Bafta’s Richard Dimbleby Award.

Bellamy proved an easy target for TV impersonators and was regularly parodied by impressionists, including Sir Lenny Henry.

He famously inspired Sir Lenny’s “grapple me grapenuts” catchphrase. 

Nature – River Tees Nature Reserve Launch
Nature – River Tees Nature Reserve Launch David Tripper, Minister for the Environment and the Countryside, Sir David Attenborough and Professor David Bellamy at the launch of the 11 million pound nature reserve of 2,500 acres on the River Tees estuary (PA)

At his peak, he was one of the most respected and sought-after experts in his field.

However, his 2004 comments on climate change, dismissed as “poppycock”, may have ended his TV career.

His later years contrasted starkly with another TV naturalist named David.

Sir David Attenborough is passionate and vocal in his belief that climate change is an existential threat to life on Earth.

He enjoys the status of arguably the country’s most beloved national treasure and continues to narrate hugely popular and influential nature programmes.

If Bellamy, who said his climate change beliefs left him a pariah, regretted his comments, he did not admit it.

David Bellamy
David Bellamy David Bellamy, pictured here in 2007, said his views on climate change led to the downfall of his TV career (David Cheskin/PA)

Asked by The Independent in 2013 if he stood by his “poppycock” missive, he replied: “Absolutely.”

It is possible Bellamy’s TV decline began before his tussle with environmental politics.

In 1997 he stood, unsuccessfully, against the sitting prime minister John Major for the Referendum Party in Huntingdon.

ELECTION Bellamy 2
ELECTION Bellamy 2 David Bellamy stood against then prime minister John Major (PA)

Speaking in 2002, Bellamy said he was “banned from television” after the election, telling The Guardian: “In some ways it was probably the most stupid thing I ever did because I’m sure that if I have been banned from television, that’s why.

“I used to be on Blue Peter and all those things, regularly, and it all, pffffft, stopped.”