Don’t Look Up (Netflix) is Adam McKay’s dark satire about climate change, though the story’s threat is a comet from outer space the size of Mt. Everest hurdling toward Earth, rather than what happens when Earth’s inhabitants abuse the ecosystem for generations. Viewership has exceeded 58,000,000, making Don’t Look Up the most- watched film in Netflix history and most-watched climate change film in cinema.
Its message points up how society remains detached even when presented with a 100% impending disaster of biblical proportion. Advocates are happy just to give the general subject a jolt.
But the film’s message is metaphorical and maybe it’s time we got real. In 2022 more than 97% of scientists agree humans are the cause of global warming, but only 58% of people consider it a threat and only 33% are prepared to do something about it.
“No matter how well-informed you are about global warming, you’re surely not alarmed enough,” wrote David Wallace-Wells in a cover story for New York, “The Uninhabitable Earth” (2017). Critics dismissed the piece as an “argument for freaking out.” New York journalist Susan Matthews responded, “The horror story [of global warming] is too scary, but it’s not scary enough.”
The Doomsday Glacier
For example, the Thwaites Glacier (known as the “doomsday glacier,”) is one of Antarctica’s largest and highest glaciers. The collapse of Thwaites poses the world’s biggest threat to sea level rise before 2100, but more imminent is the crackup of the Thwaites Eastern Ice Shelf, roughly the size of Florida or Great Britain, which serves as a dam at the front, holding the rest of the glacier back from the sea.
Until December 2021, the shelf’s seabed foothold was considered stable, but new data suggests a massive break of the ice shelf in as little as five years, says German glaciologist Angelika Humbert supported by international US scientists Erin Pettit and Ted Scambos.
Detachment of the ice shelf itself would have no immediate impact on sea level rise because the shelf would still be solid ice sitting on the surface, Humbert explains, but its dam effect would be lost, fast-forwarding the splintering of the formerly landlocked glacier by opening new melt channels for warm ocean water to rush in, under and around. Humbert uses the analogy of a windshield fracturing and says, after a point, it can’t be stopped. If Thwaites were to collapse entirely, oceans worldwide would rise more than two feet, endangering millions of people along coastal regions and inland, far from the source.
The only solution is to achieve COP26’s targeted prevention of 1.5°C (2.7°F) global temperature rise on land and in the oceans by ambitiously cutting CO2emissions. It is not hopeless. If most of us start making routine changes today, the immediate impact will soon be visible, similar to the early months of Covid shutdown when most cars stayed in the garage and planes were grounded.
“One thing that’s hard to grasp about the climate crisis is that big changes can happen fast,” writes Jeff Goodell of Rolling Stone (December 29, 2021). “In 2019, I was aboard a 308-foot-long research vessel, cruising in front of the Thwaites Glacier in Antarctica. One day, we were sailing in clear skies in front of the glacier. The next day, we were surrounded by icebergs the size of aircraft carriers. We are dealing with an event that no human has ever witnessed. We have no analog for this.”
- Last September the Pew Research Center found that climate change generates concern, but it is not a “front-burner” issue. Public concern for climate change is offset by uncertainty about where and when it will occur and how life-altering the change(s) will be compared to other issues of individual concern.
- The majority of the public does not view climate change as an immediate personal threat, but as a threat to future generations and “faraway places.” Government leaders, in part, are responsible for setting this tone.
Wallace-Wells says most scientists he spoke with in private conversations in 2016-2017 were more candid, more alarmed in private than in their published work, because the conventional wisdom was not to scare people.
“I think the public was poorly served by that, and someone like me who was engaged but not focused on the issue simply didn’t understand the scope of what we were dealing with and, as a result, was essentially complacent,” he said on a recent podcast. “In my own actions and my political life, I really wish I had been shown the naked truth so that I could make up my own mind about how to respond and what needed to be done.” Making up your own mind — is the operative phrase. Please look up.
Consider voting for political candidates who support climate change in actual legislation.
WHAT YOU CAN START DOING TODAY:
- 1.) Talk about climate change with alarm!
- 2.) Support highly rated nonprofits.
- 3.) Do whatever you can to invest in renewable energy sources — from solar porch lights to more insulation to solar roof panels and electric vehicles.
- 4.) Carpool when possible. Bike, walk, take public transit.
- 5.) Keep your tires fully inflated and go easy on brakes/gas pedals.
- 6.) Actually eat the food you buy.
- 7.) Eat just one meal a day with meat.
- 8.) Pull your plugs at night.