Climate for Every Story: A Spectrum

There’s no one right way to portray climate in your stories. Specific, climate-focused plots are awesome, but so are casual mentions.

A Climate Lens can be lifted to any aspect of a story that you're already working on, any issue you care about.

Character, theme, and story world can all be entry points to writing about the climate crisis. But the first doorway can be as simple and concrete as everyday behaviors and actions your characters can practice. You’ll find examples of climate portrayals along this spectrum in our Case Studies section.

But there are far too few examples. Half of 1 percent of all scripted TV and film in the past five years actually mentioned the term “climate change.” And only 2.8 percent of that same scripted material was even tangentially related to climate change.

Changing all of this is exactly what we’re here for. Good Energy is encouraging four ways to approach weaving climate into film and television:

Climate placement

Climate-friendly behaviors are adopted by characters or woven into the setting or set design of a story, but might not be addressed or mentioned directly.

This subtle approach can introduce audiences to new behaviors, normalize them, and help bring a lot of people on board.

  • Example: Characters in A Quiet Place use solar panels since they provide a noiseless source of energy, so everybody isn’t immediately slaughtered by aliens!

Climate mentions

Characters mention climate change in passing, which normalizes talking about the climate crisis in daily life.

This validates the audience’s climate concerns, which can have huge psychological benefits and lead to climate action.

  • Example: In the show Dead to Me, when main character Jen Harding thinks she sees the man she murdered—alive—and passes out, she blames climate anxiety in a quick mention.

Climate world

Climate-related events influence the story world, culture, and characters in meaningful ways, but the film or show isn’t directly about the climate crisis.

This allows audiences to step back and see the ways in which the climate crisis intersects with all aspects of life.

  • Example: In the show Years and Years, climate change is woven into the fabric of the story world, from storms to the demise of bananas, and therefore into the fabric of the family. The characters respond to these changes, but it's not a driving force of the story.

Climate characters

The film or show is largely about the climate crisis, in that its characters and plot are primarily driven by climate change and/or its impacts.

When audiences can enter a fictional world where people are confronting the biggest story of our time, it allows them to process their emotions and even transform them into action.

  • Example: In the film Woman At War, a badass middle-aged woman tries to take down fossil fuel infrastructure. Fighting the climate crisis is her main drive.