Hollywood, UN join forces to fight climate change

Last Sunday the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences — The Oscars — celebrated its 83rd year. Motion pictures nominated for an Oscar have always held great power in shaping culture and conversation, and have brought important issues into the American conscious. Award winning (or nominated) films can focus the spotlight on global issues in ways not possible in most forums. In the last few years there have been a growing number Oscar nominated movies with environmental themes, such as last year’s best picture nominee Avatar or this year’s best documentary nominee Gasland.

Now the United Nations is joining the efforts to bring climate change into the Hollywood spotlight. CAP’s Emily Bischof has the story.The UN is hoping to join forces with tinsel town. Last week, the UN hosted a “Global Creative Forum” at the Hammer Museum in West Los Angeles. Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General of the United Nations sat down with celebrated actor Don Cheadle in front of several hundred members of the entertainment industry to promote climate change messaging in Hollywood and throughout international film and television. He asked the movie industry for help saying, “Together we can have a blockbuster impact on the world.”

The event featured a series of themed panels including: “The United Nations and Hollywood for a Greener and Better Planet,” “Making Global Warming a HOT Issue” and “Empowering Women and Protecting Children for a Safer World.” While the UN did not make any specific recommendations to industry attendees, they hope that film and television makers found inspiration and will use their creativity to feature climate change themes in their future projects.

The movie industry is already demonstrating its long term commitment to fighting global warming behind the scenes, as many production companies are beginning to green the movie and television making process. Groups like the New York Production Alliance have teamed up with the Producers Guild of America and Green Media Solutions to create a Green Guide, which makes recommendations for how to make production more sustainable: everything from catering to set construction, to dry cleaning. On the other side of the country, Los Angeles based Warner Brothers Studios constructed Hollywood’s first LEED certified sound stage and expanded the studio’s solar electrical installation to produce 500 Kw of energy.

This call for environmental themes in Hollywood could be arriving at a perfect time as reasonable and informed discussions of climate change have become increasingly rare. Not only do polls show a decline in the number of Americans who believe there is solid evidence that the earth is warming, but our leaders in Washington are avoiding climate change messaging (even President Obama not so inconspicuously left it out of the State of the Union).

But not talking about something does not make it go away — and the UN has good reason for concern. Recent studies and trusted climate science reminds us that that we cannot ignore the “Inconvenient Truth” that Al Gore brought to our attention just a few years ago. Just a few weeks ago, scientists warned that by 2020 there will be over 50 million environmental refugees, fleeing their homes where food is both insecure and unsafe due to climate change impacts. Recent data also suggests that warming just another 1 degree Celsius could result in sea level rise totaling from 15–20 ft. or higher, threatening up to 180 of our own coastal cities.

Finally, last year we saw devastating floods in Pakistan, which inundated 1/5 of the country. These crises demonstrate a small proportion of the problems we are currently facing and will continue to face as the planet becomes warmer.

The UN hopes Hollywood will take a starring role in the fight against climate change, but will tinsel town be able to resurrect the climate change dialogue that has gone mysteriously missing from recent conversation? Will television and movies have the power to brand solar and wind power as a sexy alternative to fossil fuels? Can movie stars and Hollywood icons bring us together in a united front against the threats of a warming world?

Stay Tuned.

Emily Bischof, CAP Intern.