Boris Johnson issues urgent plea to world leaders to stop climate change ‘doomsday clock’

Prince Charles worries humanity has left climate change action too late

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Opening the Cop26 climate change conference in Glasgow, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, said the world stood at “one minute to midnight” facing catastrophe if it failed to act. Before the assembled world leaders he painted an apocalyptic picture of the future with wildfires, drought, collapsing food supplies and cities disappearing under the seas.

He warned that the “anger and impatience” of the world’s population will be “uncontainable” if the leaders did not “get real” over the coming two weeks about the dangers they faced.

He said: “We are in roughly the same position as James Bond today, except that the tragedy is that this is not a movie, and the doomsday device is real.

“The clock is ticking to the furious rhythm of hundreds of billions of pistons and turbines and furnaces and engines with which we are pumping carbon into the air faster and faster… quilting the Earth in an invisible and suffocating blanket of CO2 raising the temperature of the planet with a speed and an abruptness that is entirely man-made.”

Mr Johnson said a 2C rise in global temperatures would see crops wither and locusts swarm, while at 3C there would be a fivefold increase in droughts with wildfires and cyclones more common.

At 4C “we say goodbye to whole cities – Miami, Alexandria, Shanghai – all lost beneath the waves”.

He added: “The longer we fail to act the worse it gets and the higher the price when we are eventually forced by catastrophe to act, because humanity has long since run down the clock on climate change.

“It’s one minute to midnight on that doomsday clock and we need to act now.”

He said was the place where, 250 years ago, James Watt invented the steam engine and “the doomsday device began to tick”, underlining the “special responsibility” of industrialised nations to the rest of the world.

The Prime Minister added: “We may not feel much like James Bond, not all of us necessarily look like James Bond, but we have the opportunity, the duty, to make this summit the moment when humanity finally began – and I stress began – to defuse that bomb.”

In a blistering speech at the opening of Cop26, Barbadian prime minister Mia Mottley pushed those in attendance, while launching a veiled attack at those who chose not to come to Glasgow for the key talks.

Both Russian president Vladimir Putin of Russia and president Xi Jinping of China, whose countries are some of the biggest emitters of carbon in the world, chose not to come to the event.

“Our world, my friends, stands at a fork in the road, one no less significant than when the United Nations was formed in 1945,” Ms Mottley said.

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“But then, the majority of our countries here did not exist – we exist now – and the difference is we want to exist 100 years from now.

“If our existence is to mean anything, then we must act in the interest of all of our people that are dependent on us.

“If we don’t, we will allow the path of greed and selfishness to sow the seeds of our common destruction.”

Developing nations, she said, were looking to bigger nations to take action, as they look to mitigate the impacts of emissions they had not created.

“(The temperature rise limit of) 1.5C 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.’

“Because our people, the climate army, the world, the planet, needs our action now – not next year, not in the next decade.”

She also spoke out against those who had not come to Glasgow, urging leaders to “encircle” countries unwilling to take action on emissions.

“We can work with who is ready to go, because the train is ready to leave.

“Those who are not yet ready, we need to continue to encircle and remind them that their people, not our people, but their citizens need them to get on board as soon as possible.”

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