In a TV interview aired on Sunday night, broadcaster and naturalist Attenborough questioned Obama’s environmental record after six and a half years in office, suggesting the US should attack climate change with the same zeal as it attacked putting a man on the moon.

Attenborough said: “Supposing you said that within 10 years the US will energise the world to find a solution, to find a way of exploiting sunshine and finding ways of storing energy? Because if you did that, so many problems would be solved.”

Obama replied: “That’s what we are going to be shooting for.”

The President added: “We doubled our investment in clean energy here in the US.  I just last year came back from China with an agreement from the Chinese to work with us on reducing emissions, but we’re not moving as fast as we need to”.

Executive power

With the end of his eight-year tenure in sight, Obama seems determined leave behind a legacy of climate action. Since the start of 2015, the President has used his executive powers to push through around 40 new measures to reduce carbon emissions. These include the introduction of the Clean Energy Investment Initiative, a climate deal with Mexico, and a pledge to the UN to cut emissions by 28%.

Obama’s climate record in the face of constant opposition from Republicans in Congress convinced Attenborough that the President’s commitment to tackling climate change was real.

After his discussion with Obama, Attenborough told fellow BBC broadcaster Andrew Marr: “I believe that if his hands were free he would really make major changes, but we all know that president of the US is not omnipotent.”

In the past year, Obama has also boosted the budget for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by $450m and established a $4bn fund to encourage states to cut emissions from power stations.

Market forces

The interview, taped in the White House on 8 May, also saw Attenborough claim that the key to beating climate change was simply to make renewables cheaper than fossil fuels. “If you can do that, the economic processes will go ahead and we will have a carbon free system,” he said.

Sir David Attenborough has long been an outspoken campaigner for the protection of the natural environment, releasing a two-part documentary least year titled: “The Truth About Climate Change”.

Brad Allen

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