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.