Jeremy Clarkson is finally willing to admit that climate change is real.
The broadcaster, widely known for his cynical musings on the subject, came to the realisation whilst filming The Grand Tour Presents: Seamen, in which he, Richard Hammond and James May swap cars for boats.
The 59-year-old was in Cambodia, trying to navigate the Mekong river system from Siem Reap to Vietnam, when he discovered that one lake had shrunk until it was barely knee-deep.
“We knew before we set off that there was a problem with the water, but there was nothing we could do,” recalls the Doncaster-born father-of-three.
“It was too difficult to shift an operation that size around.
“I couldn’t quite get my head around a lake that size, you could jump off your boat in the middle of it and not even get your knees wet. You see those houses, on the stilts, with no water there. And it should have been pouring it down all day long.
“I was never going to sit in the studio and say, ‘Oh, this is climate change.’ How do we know? We haven’t seen it,” he follows. “But then, you really see it.”
However, Clarkson – who hosts ITV’s Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? and is also launching a new farming TV show for Amazon Prime next year – doesn’t want to “preach” to viewers.
“Nobody wants to sit down in front of the television and have someone go, ‘Don’t do this and don’t do that.’ That’s what politicians do. I’m not a politician.”
Clarkson, Hammond and May fronted BBC car show Top Gear together for 11 years.
But, in 2015, Clarkson was dropped by the channel after he punched a former Top Gear producer (he reportedly flew into a rage when told he couldn’t order a sirloin steak after a day of filming).
May and Hammond also left, and a year later, The Grand Tour launched on Amazon Prime Video.
The last three series have featured episodes with a live studio audience in a tented studio. But for the fourth, that format will be scrapped in favour of more road trip “adventure specials”.
Starting with The Grand Tour Presents: Seamen, in which the trio choose their boats in the usual way they choose their cars, with their own off-the-wall rationale.
Clarkson opts for a recreation of a Vietnam war-era PBR (Patrol Boat River), the famed military vessel you’ll recognise from Apocalypse Now.
Hammond, meanwhile, channels his inner Don Johnson with a Miami Vice- style speedboat.
May’s ride is a classic 1939 wooden river cruiser, so he can live out his canal holiday fantasy dream.
All three vessels were certainly put to the test, as the film ends with a voyage across some seriously treacherous waves.
Hammond and May seem genuinely terrified at points, while Clarkson seems more unfazed.
“It wasn’t bravado, honestly,” he professes.
“I’ve been in some fairly rough seas in the past, in relatively small boats, and I felt that my boat was weirdly rather good, to say it had been thrown together in Vietnam at short notice and on a shoestring.
“But I was unaware of what was happening to James and Richard and, much more importantly, to the camera crews.
“It was a slightly shell-shocked ending. I did two versions, when James got off his boat, I said, ‘Well, there we go, James has survived, and on that terrible disappointment…’”
That banter is a huge part of The Grand Tour’s appeal.
“James always goes, ‘Oh, I hate them so much’ but that’s why he’s got no friends; he doesn’t really.
“None of us hate each other, it’s just we don’t see each other when we’re not doing things together. But when we are doing it, God almighty we laugh a lot.”
The Grand Tour Presents: Seamen launches on Amazon Prime Video on Friday December 13.