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Boris Johnson has likened the plight of the planet to James Bond strapped to a doomsday device and hurtling towards a destruction that will end human life as it currently exists.
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.
The tragedy is that this is not a movie, and the doomsday device is real
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.
“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,” he said.
“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.
“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,” he said.