Sustainability Climate Change

Director of ‘Don’t Look Up’ says ending of climate crisis is ‘up to us’

Adam McKay attends Netflix’s Don’t Look Up LA Tastemaker Screening at ROSS HOUSE on November 17, 2021 in Los Angeles, California.  Tommaso Boddi / Stringer/ Getty

Story at a glance

  • Director Adam McKay wrote an opinion piece explaining what inspired the movie “Don’t Look Up.”
  • McKay said he used comedy to bring people together to talk about how dire climate change is.
  • McKay said not enough attention is being given to the climate crisis on broadcast TV, despite Americans saying they want to do more to combat climate change.

The director of the Netflix film “Don’t Look Up” is trying to warn the public about the climate crisis and urging everyone to find solutions to save the planet. 

In an opinion piece published in The Guardian, director Adam McKay describes the inspiration behind “Don’t Look Up,” a movie about two astronomers begging the public to take an Earth-shattering asteroid seriously. He says the film was about making people laugh to incite a sense of community to talk about the dire climate crisis. 

McKay argues that “Don’t Look Up” is a comedy that’s reflective of how little society is discussing climate change, citing research from Media Matters that found climate coverage decreased by 53 percent in 2020 compared to 2019 on corporate broadcast TV.  

Media Matters looked at programming on ABC, CBS, NBC and the Sunday show on Fox Broadcasting Co. and found they collectively covered climate change for a total of 112 minutes in 2020, the lowest amount of coverage since 2016. 


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“Clearly we need to reassess how we’re communicating this massive story,” said McKay, as he described how he used comedy to talk about climate change in “Don’t Look Up,” an issue that he believed can get dark as more and more data indicates the growing severity of climate change. 

Last year the United Nations Released its Emissions Gap Report that said the world needs to halve annual greenhouse gas emission in the next eight years to avoid catastrophic changes to Earth’s climate. 

McKay says that despite the minimal coverage by TV networks, the average American does care about climate change. He cited additional research by the American Psychological Assocation (APA), which found that 56 percent of Americans say climate change is the most important issue facing society today.  

However, APA’s research also found that 51 percent of U.S. adults said they don’t know where to start when it comes to combatting climate change, while 72 percent said they are very or somewhat motivated to make changes. 

McKay pointed readers to an approach created by Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, a marine biologist and co-founder of the climate initiative The All We Can Save Project, that showcases a Venn diagram that considers what a person enjoys, is good at and issues they care about in order to map out what they can do to address the climate crisis.  

“You see, when it comes to climate change, we are all in the writers’ room right now, deciding how the story unfolds and how it ends,” said McKay. 


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