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Don’t Look Up conveys a cold truth about the grave danger we are in, Scientist warns

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Jiya Saini
Jiya Saini is a Journalist and Writer at Revyuh.com. She has been working with us since January 2018. After studying at Jamia Millia University, she is fascinated by smart lifestyle and smart living. She covers technology, games, sports and smart living, as well as good experience in press relations. She is also a freelance trainer for macOS and iOS, and In the past, she has worked with various online news magazines in India and Singapore. Email: jiya (at) revyuh (dot) com

The film captures the madness and despair that climate scientists have been dealing with on a daily basis for many years.

Around Christmas, the world was treated to a new Netflix masterpiece: Don’t Look Up, a film rather than a TV series.

Since the movie’s debut, there has been a lot of discussion over how well the plot fits modern life. 

Revyuh.com cites the opinion of a scientist who, in his own words, sees “this madness every day”.

It would be funny and terrifying if it weren’t so sad

“The movie Don’t Look Up is satire. But speaking as a climate scientist doing everything I can to wake people up and avoid planetary destruction, it’s also the most accurate film about society’s terrifying non-response to climate breakdown I’ve seen,” writes Peter Kalmus, climate scientist and author of Being the Change: Live Well and Spark a Climate Revolution, in an article for The Guardian.

The film follows astronomy graduate student Kate Dibiasky (Jennifer Lawrence) and her PhD mentor, Dr Randall Mindy (Leonardo DiCaprio) when they discover a comet – a “planet killer” – that will impact the Earth in little over six months. The probability of impact is 99.7%, which is as high as it gets in science.

In fact, scientists are left alone with this knowledge since society entirely disregards them.

“The panic and desperation they feel mirror the panic and desperation that many climate scientists feel,” writes Kalmus.

Mindy is suffocating in the bathroom in one scene, while Diabaski, speaking live on national tv, shouts in another: “Are we not being clear? We’re all 100% for sure gonna fucking die!”

“I can relate. This is what it feels like to be a climate scientist today,” says Kalmus.

The president (Meryl Streep) grants the two astronomers a 20-minute meeting with her, who is relieved to learn that the impact isn’t officially 100 percent definite. She chooses to “sit tight and assess” her electoral strategy above the fate of the world. Desperate, the scientists appear on a major morning show, but the hosts dismiss their warnings (which is also overshadowed by a celebrity breakup story).

Meanwhile, scientists from all across the world confirmed that the collision was unavoidable. Despite various political events, the president launched a mission to shoot down the comet, but she later changed her mind. The billionaire sponsor (Mark Rylance) persuaded her that he could land the comet safely and collect the rich metals from it using his technology.

The headline on the cover of a sports magazine reads: “The end is near. Will there be a Super Bowl?”

The movie is not about a comet

“But this isn’t a film about how humanity would respond to a planet-killing comet; it’s a film about how humanity is responding to planet-killing climate breakdown,” the scientist writes.

More than half of Republican Congressmen still believe climate change is a hoax, and many seek to oppose recommended action, posing a growing threat. In a society where the Democratic Party platform still maintains massive fossil fuel industry subsidies, where the president promises that “nothing will fundamentally change”, and where the speaker of the House dismisses even the most modest climate plan as “the green dream or whatever“.

The author recalls that the fossil fuels industry had the largest delegation at the COP26 climate meeting in Glasgow and that the White House sold the rights to drill a significant area of the Gulf of Mexico following the event and “world leaders say that climate is an “existential threat to humanity” while simultaneously expanding fossil fuel production; in which major newspapers still run fossil fuel ads, and climate news is routinely overshadowed by sports; in which entrepreneurs push incredibly risky tech solutions and billionaires sell the absurdist fantasy that humanity can just move to Mars,” Kalmus adds.

Only five years left

After 15 years of attempting to persuade the world of the importance of combating climate change, the scientist concluded that “the public in general, and world leaders in particular, underestimate how rapid, serious and permanent climate and ecological breakdown will be if humanity fails to mobilize.”

“There may only be five years left before humanity expends the remaining “carbon budget” to stay under 1.5C of global heating at today’s emissions rates – a level of heating I am not confident will be compatible with civilization as we know it. And there may only be five years before the Amazon rainforest and a large Antarctic ice sheet pass irreversible tipping points,” warns the climatologist.

According to the expert, the Earth system is presently collapsing at a rapid pace. Climate scientists, he added, have an even more difficult time engaging with the general public than the astronomers on Don’t Look Up. Climate change has been ongoing for decades, moving at a breakneck pace for the globe but glacially slow for the news cycle. Furthermore, it is not as visible in the sky as a comet.

The film’s plot is both amusing and horrifying, since it depicts how climate scientists and others who grasp the gravity of the climate issue go about their daily lives.

“I hope that this movie, which comically depicts how hard it is to break through prevailing norms, actually helps break through those norms in real life,” writes Kalmus.

He also stated his wish that Hollywood would learn to tell relevant climate stories. Instead of stories that create a reassuring distance from the serious peril in which we find ourselves, the scientist believes that mankind requires stories that underline the absurdity of a scenario in which society is passive while having a complete grasp of what is going on.

“We also need stories that show humanity responding rationally to the crisis,” Kalmus writes. “A lack of technology isn’t what’s blocking action. Instead, humanity needs to confront the fossil fuel industry head on, accept that we need to consume less energy, and switch into full-on emergency mode.”

“The sense of solidarity and relief we’d feel once this happens – if it happens – would be gamechanging for our species. More and better facts will not catalyze this sociocultural tipping point, but more and better stories might,” the author sums up.

Image Credit: Stil from the Netflix

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