Interest in climate change spikes when celebrities like DiCaprio speak up
Studies show that the voting public grasps a problem really only when politicians and the media talk about it repeatedly and with urgency. Climate scientists say that the window of opportunity is closing, and the important decisions to avoid dangerous [global] warming must be made in the next four to eight years.
— Desi Doyen of the nationally syndicated Green News Report, August 2, 2016
By D.R. Tucker
Politicians may not be discussing climate change with the necessary urgency, and mainstream media entities have yet to “wake up and smell the carbon” (to quote environmental journalist Betsy Rosenberg), but as Desi Doyen suggests, powerful voices can indeed direct public attention to the issue of climate protection–and a new study reaffirms this reality.
As the Washington Post’s Chris Mooney reports:
Earlier this year, a team of researchers documented that when Charlie Sheen told the world that he had HIV, media attention to the virus — which had been in long decline — spiked massively.
And now, many of the same researchers are back with another demonstration. They find that when Leonardo DiCaprio used his Oscar speech earlier this year to exhort action on climate change, tweets and Google searches about the topic were enormous and, at least in the case of tweets, appear to have set a new record based on analyses between 2011 and the present.
“A single speech, at a very opportunistic time, at the Oscar ceremony, resulted in the largest increase in public engagement with climate change ever,” says John Ayers of San Diego State University, who completed the work with colleagues from the University of California San Diego, the Santa Fe Institute, and other institutions. Their study was just published in the open access journal PLOS One….
The authors add that when DiCaprio spoke, the total number of Tweets that contained the phrases “climate change” or “global warming” “were at the highest recorded value in our database with more than 250,000 tweets on that day.”
And then there were the Google searches. These, too, spiked, so much so that it represented the “third-highest point ever recorded for climate change or global warming on Google trends.”
Shortly after DiCaprio’s Oscar win, Suzanne Goldenberg of The Guardian chronicled DiCaprio’s two decades of dedication to action on climate. DiCaprio has worked with nationally-syndicated radio host Thom Hartmann on a series of compelling short films about the need to combat carbon pollution, as well as a longer documentary on our planetary peril that was recently acquired for distribution by National Geographic Channel (which will also broadcast the follow-up to the acclaimed 2014 series Years of Living Dangerously beginning October 30).
As was the case with the original series, Years of Living Dangerously 2 will focus on those pushing for effective solutions to the problem of carbon pollution — including the Citizens Climate Lobby members who attended this past June’s international conference and lobby day in Washington, D.C. (actor Bradley Whitford was the special correspondent for the CCL-related segment). YOLD 2 and the as-yet-untitled DiCaprio documentary will continue to raise needed awareness about the consequences of carbon. Hopefully, the success of both productions will encourage cable and network television decision-makers to dramatically expand climate-focused content on our channels (after all, the Summer Olympics only come once every four years). If DiCaprio and other concerned celebrities can induce the mainstream media to give climate change the lead-story coverage it deserves, it will mark the inception of dramatic progress in the fight for a stable future.