Sir David Attenborough at COP24: Collapse of Human Civilization on the Horizon

The UN talks come at a crucial juncture in mankind's response to planetary warming

Natural historian Sir David Attenborough listens to speeches during the opening of COP24 UN Climate Change Conference 2018 in Katowice, Poland. They aim to establish rules, figure out financing and build ways to verify that nations are meeting their commitments.

Sir David Attenborough encouraged leaders of the world to take a stand and address the issue of climate change while speaking at the UN Climate Change Conference in Poland.

The two-week conference assembled representatives from more than 200 nations to discuss the progress-or lack thereof-on pledges made as part of the 2015 Paris climate deal.

The documentary maker warned it could lead to the collapse of civilisations and the extinction of "much of the natural world".

"The world's people have spoken", Attenborough told the crowd, which included leaders and diplomats from around the world.

Over the weekend, 19 G20 member states reaffirmed their commitment to the Paris climate accord - except for the U.S., which has cast doubt on climate science assessments.

A group of over 90 independent climate scientists in October said fossil fuel use must be slashed by half in the next 12 years if we have any hope of hitting the 1.5C target.

Johan Rockstrom, designated director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, said the talks in the Silesian mining city of Katowice were crucial in nailing down how the Paris promises will work in practice.

After a string of damning environmental reports showing mankind must drastically slash its greenhouse gas emissions to avert runaway global warming, Guterres told delegates "we are still not doing enough, nor moving fast enough".

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Guterres called for a "huge increase in ambitions" during the two weeks of negotiations in Poland, adding "we can not afford to fail in Katowice". "So I think it is perfectly normal that his Holiness the Pope, not only this Pope, it comes from the past, have a very positive position in relation to climate action", he said.

But Guterres said governments should embrace the opportunities of shifting to a "green economy" rather than cling to fossil fuels such as coal, which are blamed for a significant share of man-made greenhouse gas emissions.

Organisers said on their website that they were taking to the streets of Brussels to claim their "right to an ambitious and socially just climate policy".

"They're supporting you in making tough decisions but they're also willing to make sacrifices in their daily lives".

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres officially opened the COP24 summit in Poland with a grim warning, saying that the world is "way off course" in its plan to prevent catastrophic climate change.

"America is more than just Washington or one leader", he said, adding that he wished he could travel back in time - like the cyborg he portrayed in "The Terminator" - to stop fossil fuels from being used. But now, the world is less than united in the battle against climate change.

US President Donald Trump pulled out of the deal a year ago, stating his opinion that it was "an agreement that disadvantages the United States to the exclusive benefit of other countries".

Mohamed Adow, climate lead for the Christian Aid charity, said richer nations needed to donate funds to allow developing countries to make the leap to renewables.

"The impacts of climate change are increasingly hard to ignore". For this reason, the COP24 is being called the most important climate conference probably "ever".

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