In an address in Paris on the environmental threats posed to earth, Mr Higgins said those who are most affected by drought, floods, fire, and intense weather must be at the centre of any response.
“We need to break away from a destructive relationship with the diversity that is life on our planet towards a new paradigm of existence, one that will be built on the respect we must have for the wonderment and renewal of nature,” the President said.
President Higgins was in Paris to attend the Summit of Consciences for the Climate.
The day-long conference was designed to raise awareness of the threat from climate change ahead of the COP21 conference on climate change in Paris in December.
Other attendees invited included ex-UN secretary-general Kofi Annan, former president Mary Robinson, religious leaders and ex-California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
In a direct appeal, President Higgins said there had to be inclusive, humane and non-judgmental engagement with the voices of those most affected by climate change.
“We must begin with an acceptance of the evidence of science. It is now clear that failure to respond to the scientific reality of climate change may ultimately lead to the destruction of life on our planet,” said President Higgins.
“We must therefore unequivocally reject the position of those who would obscure the scientific reality of climate change in their protection of any narrow and short-term self-interest.
“The first ethical test is in accepting that there can be no compromise with truth.” Despite warning about the threat posed to the planet, Mr Higgins also said there is cause for optimism.
“I perceive among the populations of the world, and especially among the young, a search for beauty and a yet retained sense of awe at the harmony of nature.
“Among the elders of the planet, there is also a respect for the potential of the inherited wisdom of the world to inform institutions and policies in new circumstances.”
President Higgins also asked if succeeding in tackling climate change would not be the greatest of all human achievements.
“When history records the actions we take or fail to take at this our moment of truth, we will not have the excuse that we did not understand, that we did not know,” he said. “We have been gifted, in a global communications order, with the knowledge and the opportunity to act.”
President Higgins also suggested world’s leaders should look to the example set after the Second World War, while he also attacked the rampant consumerism in many countries.
“Extreme individualism manifesting itself as insatiable consumption and accompanied by unconscionable levels of inequality, characterises much of what is regarded as the developed part of our planet,” said President Higgins.
Meanwhile, Earth dialled the heat up in June, smashing warm temperature records for both the month and the first half of the year.
“There is no way that 2015 isn’t going to be the warmest on record,” said Jessica Blunden, a climate scientist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.