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Researchers find surprising results after using 'Climate Reality Check' to analyze how Hollywood portrays global issues: 'Those stories can be critically acclaimed and make more money'

The creators revealed how many of 2024's Oscar contenders passed in its official debut in February.

The creators revealed how many of 2024's Oscar contenders passed in its official debut in February.

Photo Credit: iStock

A new quiz has been created to measure the awareness of our changing climate in film. The nonprofit Good Energy partnered with Colby College to create The Climate Reality Check which asks if climate change exists in the world of the movie and whether or not the characters know it.

The goal is to discover how climate change is represented on screen in any way whatsoever in an effort to reflect the reality we live in. 

The creators revealed how many of 2024's Oscar contenders passed in its official debut in February. The results were three out of 31: Barbie, Mission Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One, and Nyad.

A larger study of 250 of the most popular films released between 2013 and 2022 suggests that not only are more movies beginning to acknowledge climate change but that they tend to be 8-10% more profitable, according to an article by Fast Company. 

To be considered, the film must have been set on Earth without elements of high fantasy. Twenty-four of the movies passed, including Midsommar, Marriage Story, Happy Death Day, Tenet, and Glass Onion. 

Streaming companies had nearly twice as many films pass at least one part of the climate reality check. Perhaps it's no coincidence that Netflix has its own sustainability team.

Matthew Schneider-Mayerson, lead of the research team at Colby College, said, "It's … possible that they're getting ahead of a trend; that their ability to sense viewers' habits has given them an inkling that this is actually an economic opportunity." 

Good Energy hopes that the quiz will inspire filmmakers to want to pass the test so that by 2027, 50% of films will be climate reality check approved. 

Just as how phone usage and communication have evolved in Hollywood over the years, there is a certain level of environmental reality that films must portray to make them that much more believable and, as it turns out, profitable.

And that's not to say climate change has to be the driving force of the film, but there are opportunities to encourage natural, organic ways to thread it into movies and TV for cultural accuracy.

The more we talk about it, the more aware, educated, and proactive people become. Small changes can make a huge difference — especially when it comes to cooling our planet.

"In previous years, there was a lot of fear that including climate in your movie might alienate audiences by being too dark or too complicated or boring or preachy," said Good Energy founder Anna Jane Joyner. "Audiences actually are worried about climate and relate to characters who express that — and now we have data that shows not only can you include climate in stories that are truly entertaining and riveting, but those stories can be critically acclaimed and make more money."

As Schneider-Mayerson was quoted, "We're at a point where films set now or in the near future that don't mention climate change should be considered what they are: fantasy."

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