CLIMATE HUMOR

Is there anything funny about global warming? Well, no. This subject could not be more serious — and that’s why the climate conversation craves an occasional light touch. 

“When you say Climate Change or Global Warming people think, Okay I’m going to get a lecture,” says Chris Duffy, the host and creator of You’re the Expert. “They’re gonna tell me I’m driving the wrong car. I need to stop eating burgers. I can’t use a plastic straw. I have to grow my own food. I got it, we are all gonna die.” 

Done right, humor can be a supersonic climate communications tool, heightening awareness and opening the door for constructive action. Done wrong, it’s just another flop.

“Comedy needs to be able to float to be funny, meaning that it needs to be unencumbered by excessive environmental messaging,” according to University of Colorado experts Maxwell Boykoff and Beth Osnes. It’s a basic point, but often missed: watch this greener-than-thou dude for what not to do.  

 
 

Humor can ease the way in to a climate conversation with your friends and family -- and that, as we know, is a powerful lever for accelerating broad-based public demand for a carbon-free world. In their recent paper “A Laughing Matter? Confronting climate change through humor,” Boykoff and Osnes write comedy can blast “new routes to ‘knowing’ about climate change, overcoming often sober or gloomy scientific assessments through experiential, narrative, emotive and relatable storytelling.” 

Late-night comedy television has become a hotbed for climate commentary and thus for public engagement, owing to Trusted Messenger status of these hosts with viewers. John Oliver, Jimmy Kimmel, Stephen Colbert et al are not only smart, informed, trusted, and funny – they reach millions on a nightly basis. Audiences typically run 3 or 4 million (a recent John Oliver/Bill Nye clip topped 8 million), and that’s before counting digital views on YouTube or social-media shares. As Yale’s Tony Leiserowitz puts it, “millions of people just had a conversation or watched on television discussions about climate change that they otherwise never get exposed to.”

It's tough to make predictions, especially about the future, Yogi Berra said, but scientists have a talent for forecasting with precision. Climate change may be complex, it may be scary, it may be tough to wrap your head around, but thanks to our scientists we have a glimpse of what’s coming. We certainly know enough to want to avoid the worst. 

Unfortunately and incredibly, we are not on track for that outcome. Not even close. And that’s no joke. 

Memo to scolding vegans: Lighten up a bit! Share your favorite clip from this Playlist of Climate Humor – and please share your recommendations!

Bill Nye on Last Week Tonight by John Oliver. You’d never expect Bill Nye the science guy to drop the f-bomb, which is why when he did, twice in one segment, it went viral.

John Oliver’s famous Are there Hats segment, in which he discusses the Scientific Consensus on global warming.

Jimmy Kimmel hosts two kids who explain Climate Change for a skeptical President. https://youtu.be/0sdqNR_s6LQ

Kimmel hosts George Clooney for a climate conversation. https://youtu.be/0Ab4BRAQElw

The Real National Emergency Is Climate Change: A Closer Look, Late Night with Seth Meyers

Meyers presents facts and opportunities on climate change, knitting an elegant rebuttal to partisan climate skeptics. 

Weekend Update, Saturday Night Live

Anchors Colin Jost and Michael Che tackle the week's biggest news, including the United Nations' report on climate change. 

Inside the Greenhouse video contest, University of Colorado, Boulder.

@ClimateAdam YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/ClimateAdam

Sarah Finnie Robinson