An Inconvenient Truth:

Could Hollywood’s Climate Change Virtue Signalling be Doing More to Harm the Environment than Help It?

Surinder Singh Head

Ever since Al Gore’s Oscar winning documentary on Climate Change forced Hollywood’s elite to sit up and take notice, the movement towards reducing the film industry’s carbon release has been somewhat questionable.

The fact is that movie making has a huge carbon footprint of around thirty-three metric tonnes per day. And that staggering number is just for its tenpole movies alone, not the thousands of other movies being produced on top of that. 

As one might imagine, transport, set builds, locations, technology, special effects and film promotion across the globe will cost you a whole lot of carbon. Sustainable filmmaking is something people are starting to talk about and set targets for. 

But is there a bigger problem in the culture of large scale movie making that has yet to be addressed?

Maybe the power of celebrity influence is proving to be worth its weight in gold?  

But is it worth its weight in carbon?

Reverential Revenant

When Hollywood leading man Leonardo DiCaprio took the podium to collect his Best Actor Oscar for The Revenant, he made sure the bright light upon him also touched on climate change:

Climate change is real, it is happening right now. It is the most urgent threat facing our entire species, and we need to work collectively together and stop procrastinating.

The intention isn’t a bad one by any means. There’s always been an expectation for celebrities to use their platform to speak out on important issues that affect the world in the hopes that it’ll provoke discussion and then hopefully a positive action for good. They mean well but can often find themselves in precarious situations when they step into the debate.

By speaking out about climate change with such a direct statement (like the one above) you invite the same scrutiny to be applied to your own personal conduct when you’re under that very spotlight.

STAR Index - Hollywood & Climate Change

And given that DiCaprio reportedly took around twenty private jet flights across the globe in 2014 (along with a World Cup tour on the fifth largest yacht in the world) the air turbulence around him got rather ‘choppy’ indeed. Private jets alone can emit as much as two tonnes of carbon dioxide in just one hour. As you would imagine, the conversation quickly turned on him with words like “climate hypocrite” and “double standards” being thrown around.

The Titanic star went even further, as to lecture the UN on climate change using the momentum of his Oscar speech. There was even a photo of him with Greta Thumberg for added effect.

But there is an argument to hold off damning celebrities like DiCaprio prematurely. Let’s face it, movie stars owe their notoriety, influence and livelihood in the first place to an incredibly carbon-heavy industry by default.

So is Leo destined to hit a great big iceberg despite all his efforts?

Perhaps celebrity climate change activists are (through no fault of their own) placed in a political deficit before even getting to that Oscar podium? But would we rather them do nothing at all and simply take their statues and leave?

The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation has been responsible for a number of positive actions. Not least its pledge to divest away from fossil fuels with four hundred other institutions. It’s possible that the number of institutions joining the effort was a direct result of the Hollywood actor’s influence and would not have been as popular without him?

Maybe the power of celebrity influence is proving to be worth its weight in gold?  

But is it worth its weight in carbon?

Go ahead and share your thoughts with us in the comments below?

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