Netflix’s “Don’t Look Up” is a climate film in disguise

Still film by Leonardo DiCaprion and Jennifer Lawrence "Don't look up."

When you realize that the end of the world is coming.
Screenshot: Netflix

I don’t have to show up more than a two and a half minute trailer Don’t look up towards You can count on it to be almost certainly the best climate film ever made.

Netflix released the trailer on Tuesday, which at first glance might look like a regular disaster comedy. (Does this genre exist?) Researchers played by Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence alert the US Government a comet headed towards Earth. The government’s response is to immediately ignore them and “sit firmly and evaluate.” The media does not take it seriously. When the government finally starts thinking about the comet, the goal is to benefit from it.

“What does a trillion dollars matter if we all die?” The DiCaprion character asks: immediate mockery.

The similarities with climate change are striking. Scientists have known about the greenhouse effect for nearly two centuries. There magazine article from 1912 burning coal for climate change. Exxon’s own scientists perfectly predicted the current state of climate change in 1982. It is there has been no shortage of alarm bells that have ringed and have ringed reached crescendon last years.

Yet the U.S. government – and, in fact, basically all the governments in the world –has basically shrugged. Carbon dioxide emissions have remained unchanged. Now that we have a crisis point, governments have used profit as a reason to deal with it.

“There is no longer any doubt that this is a disaster and we need to fix it,” White House climate adviser Gina McCarthy said at global climate talks earlier this month. “The question is, how do we do it in a way that captures the economic value associated with it? We need to turn this challenge into a creative opportunity. And all of this will make money. And God bless America.”

God bless, indeed.

“The old notions of why the private sector should cut carbon – because the planet needs to be put before profit – are no longer universally true,” Finance Minister Janet Yellen said in the same debate.

The production of climate films is quite meager. The day after tomorrow is perhaps the most famous. While the film captures some of the dynamics seen in real life, particularly the government’s displacement of scientists at the end of the world, it does so in a heavy way that obscures how grimly absurd our current plight is. (It also includes Jake Gyllenhaal, which is now probably problematic.) That is why I have high hopes Don’t look up. While it ostensibly tells of a celestial body colliding with the earth, the trailer’s message hits much closer to home.


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