Last updated on February 15, 2022
There is no better sum-up of political discussion in recent years than an iconic line from Adam Mckay’s Don’t Look Up: “Listen to the goddamn qualified scientists!” The political satire is depressing, uncomfortable, and all too familiar; astronomers discover a world-ending comet (metaphorically, the threat of climate change), only to find that politicians and the general public deny the scientific findings for their benefit. As paralleled in the film, why is it so difficult for many in our world to “listen to the scientists?”
Despite his good intentions, Mckay is worsening what he hopes to solve. While Don’t Look Up is applauded for its blunt representation of the climate crisis, its “smug” undertones towards the politically conservative intensify the polarization surrounding climate change by framing the crisis with a certain “us versus them” mentality. In this aspect, Don’t Look Up is counterproductive. The satire’s mistake reflects a broader issue: both parties in the U.S. are guilty of vilifying the other, which becomes especially detrimental when issues like climate change are involved.
This fact was demonstrated most recently by Anthony Fauci’s struggle to remain apolitical during the COVID-19 crisis. Donald Trump’s claim that Fauci was a “Democrat” overshadowed these efforts: a disastrous suspicion of masks and vaccinations by the Republican party lead to countless deaths. It’s dangerous to politicize science.
Productive conversations require open minds, so there really is no time for alienating others when facing a global emergency. The general scientific community has proven that the climate crisis is real. But, polarization lays the groundwork for misinformative messages in the media to thrive: this includes ones that deny actual climate science, undermining our collective ability to save the planet.
We cannot keep magnifying the divide over climate change by attributing stances to political parties. The doomsday clock is ticking, and we need unity now more than ever.