Hollywood a-lister Leonardo DiCaprio spoke to a realistic but optimistic outgoing US president Barack Obama as part of a new climate change documentary.
Star power matters – as confirmed by scientists who looked into the DiCaprio effect earlier this year – and the movie star is certainly making a big impact with his Before the Flood climate change documentary, which was released globally last weekend (30 October).
— Leonardo DiCaprio (@LeoDiCaprio) October 31, 2016
In a clip from his interview with Obama that was released to the media, Obama said that although the targets in the Paris Agreement are “nowhere near enough for what the scientists tell us to do eventually” he is “happy” with the accord in that it puts the architecture in place to ramp up efforts in the years ahead.
For the first time, Obama stressed, countries are locked into “verifiable steps and targets that they’re going to take.”
In the unprecedented agreement, most of the world’s countries agree to review their national climate action plans every five years to ensure the world is on track to keep global warming well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
Obama suggests the world uses “the next 20 years to apply existing technology to reduce carbon emissions” before it starts to slowly turn up the dials “as new technologies come online so that we have more ambitious targets each year.”
But despite his cautious words, the US government is already investing heavily in low carbon innovation. A recent report revealed that the cost of low-carbon technologies across the United States has plunged by as much as 94 per cent since Obama took office in 2008, in part due to strategic Department of Energy spending on research.
Hillary Clinton, the president’s possible successor, has also made no secret of her plans to turn America into the world’s “clean energy superpower.”
"Some country is going to be the clean energy superpower of the 21st century and create millions of jobs…I want it to be us." —Hillary
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) August 11, 2016
In Europe, the EU is betting big on low carbon innovation and has been ramping up its efforts to compete globally through initiatives like Climate-KIC, a public-private partnership that accelerates and scales up low-carbon technologies developed by start-ups and large-scale multi-stakeholder innovation projects.
“We’re not going to completely reverse the warming that now is inevitable,” Obama said, “but we can stop it before it becomes catastrophic.”
DiCaprio, who is slightly more reserved in his optimism, asked the president what would happen if a future president wouldn’t believe in climate science – not entirely unrealistic with Donald Trump currently still in the running for the top job.
“Reality has a way of hitting you in the nose if you’re not paying attention,” Obama replied, saying that he has faith in the electorate and their increased understanding of the science “because it’s indisputable.”
DiCaprio said he admires Obama’s optimism, but points to scientists that have identified sections of ice in the Antarctic that could “guarantee” sea level rise of four to six metres, which “would be catastrophic for the future.”
The Titanic actor went on to ask Obama what would make him terrified for the future, as the “leader of the free world” with “access to information that most people do not.”
The president acknowledged that a huge portion of the world’s population lives near oceans. “If they start moving,” Obama said, “you start seeing scarce resources the subject of competition between populations. This is the reason why the Pentagon has said ‘this is a national security issue’ – this isn’t just an environmental issue.”
Even if you are “unsentimental” about the “romantic side” of things, such as being able to show your kids or grandkids the glaciers in Alaska, Obama said, the security threat is real and should be taken very seriously.
Unless we take action now, the president said, the “existing world order as we understand it” might not survive the consequences of climate change.
Before the Flood
The documentary is billed as the highest-profile environmental film since Al Gore’s ‘An Inconvenient Truth‘ and is summed up by The Wrap as a “straightforward, elegantly presented survey of the science on climate change” along with suggestions on how to fix it.
— Leonardo DiCaprio (@LeoDiCaprio) October 30, 2016
DiCaprio’s next project is rumoured to be a movie version of the popular 1990s Captain Planet cartoon show. The original series was a form of edutainment and promoted environmentalism through an animated story revolving around five teenagers known as the Planeteers, aided by superhero Captain Planet.
DiCaprio is said to have teamed up with Paramount and is reportedly in talks to obtain the rights from the owners of the series. Before the Flood still streams for free on YouTube for a limited amount of time.