One of the world's most beloved figures, Sir David Attenborough, has delivered a damning assessment of "powerful" figures in Australia.

Sir David Attenborough has taken aim at "powerful" figures in Australia who still don't believe climate change is happening, saying it is "extraordinary" given the country is already dealing with some of the most extreme consequences.

The respected English broadcaster and natural historian who is famous for his documentaries including Life on Earth and Blue Planet, was invited to speak in front of the UK Parliament's British, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee overnight about his views on climate change.

He said the most striking example of climate change that he remembers was experienced on Australia's famous Great Barrier Reef.

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Sir David began visiting the reef in the 1950s and told the committee that the "most vivid memory" of his natural history life was seeing the "multitude of fantastically beautiful forms of animals", many that he had never seen before.

Sir David Attenborough loves Australia's Great Barrier Reef. Photo / Supplied
Sir David Attenborough loves Australia's Great Barrier Reef. Photo / Supplied

But his amazement turned to horror when he returned to the reef about 10 years ago.

"I will never forget diving on the reef … and suddenly seeing, instead of this multitude of wonderful forms and life, that it was stark white," he said.

"It had bleached white because of the rising temperatures and the increasing acidity of the sea."

Not everyone may share his enthusiasm about the beauty of the reef but Sir David said the system was "crucial" to the world.

"Because 30 to 40 per cent of all oceanic fish throughout the seas depend upon the coral reefs at some time of their lives," he said.

Sir David said reefs acted as a "nursery" with many fish spawning or growing up there.

"If you wipe that out you wipe out whole areas of the ocean," he said.

He said it was "appalling" that humans had somehow interrupted this process and the ocean, which we depend on for food.

Asked about claims from climate change deniers that people were "overpanicking", he singled out Australia and the US as places where there were still people in positions of power who were sceptics.

"I am sorry that there are people who are in power, and internationally, notably of course: the United States but also in Australia — which is extraordinary because Australia is already facing having to deal with some of the most extreme manifestations of climate change," he said.

Sir David says there are still Australians in power who deny climate change. Photo / Supplied
Sir David says there are still Australians in power who deny climate change. Photo / Supplied

"Both Australia and America — those voices are clearly heard — and one hopes that the electorate will actually respond to those."

However, Sir David did not think the voice of criticism or disbelief should be "stamped on".

"It's very very important that voices of dissent should have a place where they're heard and the arguments between the two sides can be worked out in public, and compared and analysed in public, that's very important."

When it comes to climate change action, Sir David said he thought authorities "cannot be radical enough in dealing with these issues".

"The question is what is practically possible? How can we take the electorate with us in dealing with these things because it costs money."

"Dealing with these things means we've got to change our lifestyle," he said.

In asking how quickly authorities could move on climate change, Sir David said he thought this depended on how fast they could carry the electorate with them.

"The most encouraging thing I see is that the electorates of tomorrow are already making their voices very, very clear," he said.

He said young people were now recognising that it was their future that was at stake.

"I'm OK for the next decade and all of us here are OK because we won't face the problems that are coming," he said.

"But the problems in another 20-30 years are really major problems that are going to cause great social unrest and great changes in the way that we live, in what we eat and how we live … it's going to happen."

Sir David Attenborough appears in front of the UK Parliament's Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee. Photo / Supplied
Sir David Attenborough appears in front of the UK Parliament's Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee. Photo / Supplied

Sir David's remarks come as a report this week found Australia could be responsible for up to 17 per cent of the world's carbon emissions by 2030.

A report by Berlin-based science and policy institute Climate Analytics found planned coal and gas expansions could push Australia's share of emissions higher over the next decade.

Australian coal could be responsible for 12 per cent of global emissions by then.

The Australian Conservation Foundation's Gavan McFadzean said coal and gas were the cause of the "climate crisis", with Australian the number one exporter of both.

"This report confirms Australia is on track to become one of the world's worst contributors to climate damage," he said.