Skip to content

‘Don’t Look Up’ Inspires Powerful Conversations About the Climate Crisis

‘Don’t Look Up’ Inspires Powerful Conversations About the Climate Crisis

On its surface, Don’t Look Up is a fictional comedy about a comet on a collision course with Earth. But in the weeks since it’s Dec. 24 release on Netflix, it’s inspired some very serious discussions around climate change — and the need for action.

Starring Oscar winners Jennifer Lawrence and Leonardo DiCaprio, the Adam McKay film centers on two astronomers who go on a media tour to warn humankind of a planet-killing comet hurtling toward Earth. The only problem? Too little is being done about it.

Many climate scientists and behavioral scientists who have been on the front lines of the climate crisis believe Don’t Look Up offers an important lesson in how we can look at this ongoing crisis through a new lens to, hopefully, inspire action.

“It’s a cautionary tale about the climate crisis stitched together by McKay’s signature biting humor. That’s the spoonful of sugar that makes the medicine go down,” Dr. Michael E. Mann, an atmospheric science professor, author and director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State University, wrote in an op-ed for The Boston Globe

In an essay for Forbes, Dr. Marshall Shepherd, Director of the University of Georgia’s (UGA) Atmospheric Sciences Program praised the film as “a layered commentary on the climate crisis, denialism, and the lack of action on a looming problem.”

For all of its humor, parts of Don’t Look Up hit close to home for climate scientists, advocates and psychologists, many of whom saw themselves in the film’s main characters Dr. Randall Mindy (DiCaprio) and Kate Dibiasky (Lawrence). 

Climate scientist and author Dr. Peter Kalmus called Don’t Look Up as “the most accurate film about society’s terrifying non-response to climate breakdown I’ve seen” in a piece for The Guardian

Dr. Michael Svoboda, an assistant professor of writing at George Washington University, went one step further in a story for Yale Climate Connections: “Don’t Look Up has quickly become something of a cultural phenomenon, already eclipsing The Day After Tomorrow as the most influential fictional film ‘about’ climate change.”

Mexican-Chilean youth climate activist and Fridays for Future organizer Xiye Bastida, who sits on Netflix’s independent advisory group of sustainability experts, hopes the film inspires audiences to take action.

Unlike the film, it’s not too late to change course, as climate psychologists Dr. Barbara Hofer and Dr. Gale Sinatra recently wrote in a piece for The Conversation. “The most important difference between the film’s premise and humanity’s actual looming crisis is that while individuals may be powerless against a comet, everyone can act decisively to stop fueling climate change.” 

For those looking to do just that, Don’t Look Up and non-profit Count Us In recently launched a climate microsite that provides more information about the climate crisis and meaningful steps we can all take towards a safer planet. Visit for more information.