Are We Changing Planet Earth?

David Attenborough explores just how far climate change is altering our planet—from drought-stricken rainforest to declining polar bears, from flooded homes to bleached coral. Are We Changing Planet Earth? explores the evidence that it is industrial civilisation and the activities of humans which are radically changing the climate…


Part one highlights several meteorological and climatological catastrophes: Hurricane Katrina, the collapse of glaciers in Greenland, drought in the Amazon River, forest fires in Australia, and one of Europe’s hottest summers. Scientists all over the world are linking the changes in the Earth’s weather to a global rise in temperatures. The actual figure is just 0.6°C since 1900, but this is only an average—for example, the Arctic has warmed by up to 3°C, and this alone threatens its whole ecosystem.

Attenborough starts the second programme by looking at potential future events, before warning that what happens over the next few years is crucial. A weather forecast for the year 2050 shows that summer temperatures of 38°C for the UK are par for the course. The probable range by which the planet will warm over the next century is between 1.4°C and 5.8°C. Or, says Attenborough, “to put it another way, the impact of global warming will be somewhere between severe and catastrophic.” What can be done to reverse these trends?