David Attenborough meets Barack ObamaKeith
David Attenborough and Barack Obama.
Sir David Attenborough says President Obama wanted to make clear he was “not a philistine” about the environment during a private meeting last month.
Sir David Attenborough is a sought-after authority on the natural world.
But the 89-year-old has told how he was left “astonished” last month to find his environmental expertise called upon – by the President of the United States, barack Obama.
Sir David said that he was flown to Washington at the invitation of Barack Obama, who requested a meeting with the naturalist after hearing about his documentary, Rise of Animals: Triumph of the Vertebrates, being screened in America.
Sir David said his audience with the President took place in the Blue Room of the White House and saw the two men discuss climate change, conservation and Mr Obama’s “feeling for nature”.
“He wanted to make it clear that he was not a philistine in this matter. He is on the side of the natural world and that’s what he wanted to be clear. And that’s against some very powerful voices that are in the US which are not in favour of the natural world.”
Sir David said that Mr Obama was “very much in favour of dealing with climate change” but that “of course, as we also know, he is coming to the end of his last Presidency”.
“I got the sense that he is wondering what he is going to do next,” he said, adding that he could imagine Mr Obama working on environmental issues after he stands down as President
Sir David described the “chat” with Mr Obama as a “great privilege” but said he had “no idea” why the President had wanted to see him. “To be absolutely truthful I am baffled,” he said.
“He invited me to go to Washington. He sent me a ticket,” he said. “I was astonished, I don’t understand it.”
“I had to get up at 5 o’clock in the morning and I flew into Washington and a car met me and I went to a hotel changed into a suit and went to the White House.”
Sir David was speaking at the launch of the Global Apollo Programme, a proposed new worldwide research programme to tackle climate change by reducing the cost of green energy.
The programme, which Sir David endorsed as “exciting”, was drawn up by figures including Sir Gus O’Donnell, the former cabinet secretary, and Lord John Browne, the former BP chief.
It calls on governments to commit 0.02 per cent of GDP to work together on research and development in the hope of scientific breakthroughs akin to the Apollo space programme that put man on the moon.