Climate change will kill more people than Covid, warns Sir Patrick Vallance

Climate change will kill more people than Covid, the UK’s chief scientific adviser has warned.

Sir Patrick Vallance said climate change was a bigger problem than Covid-19 because of its overall effect on humanity, warning that "if this is not stopped, this will be a bigger, bigger challenge to the way we live and lives will be lost".

“In the pandemic it took a concerted worldwide effort to come up with vaccines, drug treatments… understanding what behavioural change is necessary – the same is true for climate," he told the BBC.

The Covid pandemic has had a mortality rate of 641 per million. A study published last year found that global mortality rates from climate change would be 730 per million in a high-emissions scenario.

Speaking at climate conference Cop26, which is due to conclude this weekend, he said it was important to keep chasing the goal enshrined in the Paris Agreement which aims to limit warming to 1.5C, reducing the most dangerous impacts.

"It’s crucial that the 1.5C is kept alive. I don’t think this is a negotiable thing. It has to happen," he said.

He added the Government needed to make it easier for people to choose to be green.

"Behaviour change is part of this, and some of that is down to what we do as individuals and some of it is what needs to happen to make things easier for us.

"We can’t assume it’s going to be dramatic personal behaviour change that’s going to be the solution to this unless we make some way of making that easier so that the green choice is actually the easy choice," he said.

Sir Patrick had previously warned that tackling climate change would require behavioural changes such as eating less meat and flying less, and that the world could not rely solely on technology.

He said he was cutting his own carbon footprint by eating less meat and cycling, and had also taken a train to the Glasgow event.

British astronaut Tim Peake added that efforts to tackle climate change were being spurred on by space travel, amid criticism from some green groups that missions led by US billionaires including Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and SpaceX’s Elon Musk were vanity projects.

He said: "When it comes to demanding for our solar panel efficiencies, there’s no industry that’s asking more than the space industry.

"In terms of battery technology, in terms of water purification systems, carbon dioxide removal systems, food manufacturing – if we can grow food in space, we can grow food anywhere on the planet.

"And so the space industry is demanding an awful lot. It’s pushing the boundaries." 

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