Six of the most melodramatic warnings from COP26

2 November 2021

7:50 PM

2 November 2021

7:50 PM

The COP26 summit in Glasgow reaches its climax today, as world leaders try and thrash out a deal to halt climate change. But as well as attempting to find agreement, politicians and other bigwigs are competing to outdo each other in their dire warnings of what might happen if nothing changes. Here are six of the most melodramatic claims to emerge so far from COP:

Boris Johnson’s ‘doomsday clock’:

‘The doomsday device is real,’ said Boris Johnson as he addressed COP26 delegates on the dangers of climate change. The PM said humanity’s situation was comparable to a James Bond film where ‘a red digital clock ticks down remorselessly to a destination that will end human life as we know it’.

‘The clock is ticking to the furious rhythm of hundreds of billions of engines and furnaces and turbines that are enveloping the Earth in an invisible and suffocating blanket of CO2,’ warned Boris. Is this really the same man who once suggested concerns about global warming were a ‘primitive fear’?

Prince Charles’ war of the world:

The future king has long been outspoken when it comes to environmental issues. His speech at COP was no exception: the Prince of Wales called for a ‘vast military-style campaign’ to address urgent environmental issues. ‘Time has quite literally run out,’ he said.

UN chief’s potty mouth:

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was similarly downbeat as he said people are ‘treating nature like a toilet’. Guterres said that the world’s reliance on fossil fuels meant that ‘we are digging our own graves’.

Welby’s ‘genocide’ warning:

The Archbishop of Canterbury went a tad too far in his own warning about the dire situation facing mankind. Justin Welby said leaders would be ‘cursed’ if they didn’t reach agreement on climate change at the COP summit. Welby added that a failure to act now could lead to ‘a genocide on an infinitely greater scale’ than was committed by Hitler’s regime.

‘People will speak of them in far stronger terms than we speak today of the politicians of the 30s, of the politicians who ignored what was happening in Nazi Germany because this will kill people all around the world for generations, and we have will have no means of averting it,’ he said.

Unsurprisingly, Welby later said sorry. ‘I unequivocally apologise for the words I used when trying to emphasise the gravity of the situation facing us at COP26,’ he wrote on Twitter,

Future generations will speak of current politicians in “far stronger terms than we speak today of… the politicians who ignored what was happening in Nazi Germany”, Justin Welby says

The Archbishop of Canterbury has since apologised for the comparison

— BBC Politics (@BBCPolitics) November 1, 2021

Attenborough: is this the end?

David Attenborough was the star of the show at COP26 yesterday. The 95-year-old broadcaster won a standing ovation for his speech, in which he said that humanity was ‘already in trouble’. While Attenborough didn’t go as far as others in his doom and gloom mongering, he did ask delegates:

‘Is this how our story is due to end – a tale of the smartest species doomed by that all-too-human characteristic of failing to see the bigger picture in pursuit of short-term goals?’.

Barbados PM’s ‘death sentence’:

Barbados is among a number of island nations at greater risk than others when it comes to climate change, which perhaps explains the dire warning its PM offered to the Glasgow summit. The country’s leader Mia Mottley likened a temperature rise to an execution:

‘1.5 Celsius is what we need to stay alive — two degrees is a death sentence for the people of Antigua and Barbuda, for the people of the Maldives, for the people of Dominica and Fiji, for the people of Kenya and Mozambique — and yes, for the people of Samoa and Barbados. We do not want that dreaded death sentence, and we’ve come here today to say: ‘Try harder, try harder’.’


Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

Show comments