The 7 Most Epic Climate Change Documentaries
By Loic Tchinda
Climate change is real and its effects are already visible — even more so, when you watch them play out on the big screen. The effects of human impact on the planet are obvious with increased greenhouse gas emission, the melting of ice sheets, and the potential of the megafauna’s extinction.
Fortunately, nowadays you don’t have to leave your couch to learn about these changes and people working to build a better future. Netflix and National Geographic channel are chock-full of documentaries that promise to entertain as they educate — it’s not all doom and gloom, and as a bonus, you’ll get some incredible nature and wildlife footage.
We have compiled a list of the Seven most spectacular releases below. Check out the trailers or watch them in full on platforms such as Netflix and YouTube.
1. True North (2018)
True North consists of 16 11-minute episodes, led by John Iadarola — who co-hosts The Young Turks’ ThinkTank channel and investigative reporter and filmmaker Chavala Madlena — who has worked with The Guardian and BBC. Alongside a retinue of scientists, cartographers, and other associates, Iadarola and Madlena report from remote Arctic locates in order to ascertain how climate change is affecting local populations and ecosystems.
What makes True North unique is that it’s not a conventional docudrama miniseries. It’s more about several smaller, short anecdotal stories that build up to the larger topic of climate change (definitely the editors’ pick).
2. An Inconvenient Truth (2006)
An Inconvenient Truth has arguably done more to raise awareness on the subject of climate change than any other documentary. Director Davis Guggenheim takes what started out as a simple presentation by former presidential candidate Al Gore and turns it into an impassioned educational movie. The documentary was a huge hit, winning two Academy Awards, two Oscars and grossing $24 million in the US box office. Even better, at the same time, it opens many people’s eyes up to the urgency to address the issue of Climate change.
3. Before the Flood (2016)
The documentary has been described as highest-profile environmental film since Al Gore’s ‘An Inconvenient Truth‘ and was summed up by The Wrap as a “straightforward, elegantly presented survey of the science on climate change” along with constructive suggestions on how to reduce the impacts.
Before the Flood’s special feature is unarguably the number of major casts including Oscar-winning and movie star Leonardo DiCaprio, the Pope, Barack Obama and a host of others. There in, Obama praises the Paris Agreement for being one of the first things to bring all of humanity to consensus on a single matter and expresses optimism that new technologies in the coming decades will go a long way in combating the climate change problem.
4. Years of Living Dangerously (2016)
The first season of this made-for-TV documentary series focuses on the problems and causes of climate change. Most importantly, this docuseries eight-episode run highlights the solutions that people around the world are working on according to Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Terminator actor and former governor of California and one of the show’s producers.
Years of Living Dangerously features some of Hollywood’s most influential stars, reveals emotional and hard-hitting accounts of the effects of climate change from across the planet
5. 11th Hour (2007)
Poised by the success of Al Gore’s movie (An Inconvenient Truth), Leonardo DiCaprio lends his support to the movement in a big way, as he co-wrote and narrated this insightful documentary about the challenges posed by climate change. Through interviews with experts in many scientific fields, as well as prominent activists and politicians, the film seeks to convince viewers, beyond any reasonable doubt, that the planet is in danger and that action needed to be taken immediately if we are to have any chance of reversing the negative consequences.
6. Chasing Ice (2012)
The documentary follows James Balog (who himself was a skeptic when it comes to belief in climate change), to the arctic ice caps of Greenland, Alaska and Iceland. He accompanies scientists who are trying to keep a record of the effects of the world’s rising temperatures. In a captivating photographic journey, Balog himself begins to see the foolhardiness of his belief as the harsh realities are revealed on this breath-taking journey.
Jeff Orlowski’s documentary received an Oscar nomination for the images that were captured while James Balog and his team recorded the melt rate in Greenland, Iceland and Alaska. The resulting film is at once visually stunning and haunting.
7. A Beautiful Planet (2016)
Narrated by Jennifer Lawrence, A Beautiful Planet is the result of a collaboration between IMAX and NASA that showcases the view of earth from the perspective of those on board the International Space Station. This magnificent documentary is surely to leave you in awe of our beautiful blue planet, as humanity tries to rescue it from ourselves. There’s also a more serious intention here, like all of the others on this list. The movie highlights the changes our planet has gone through over the years and explains negative effects that humans have had on it.
Never have I felt so proud about myself than when I took a couple of hours off, over last weekend to watch and review these documentaries for you. I went through them so effortlessly. Watching these documentaries has ultimately made me realize that climate change becomes an increasingly serious problem, and that it is the biggest challenge humanity has ever faced — and it is also our greatest opportunity.
We have the solutions we need, but it takes the contribution of all. Inspired by what I saw, my first resolution is to plant a tree every year for the rest of my life. First, grab some popcorn and start watching!
About UN CC:Learn
UN CC:Learn is a partnership of more than 30 multilateral organizations supporting countries to design and implement systematic, recurrent and results-oriented climate change learning. Through its engagement at the national and global levels, UN CC:Learn contributes to the implementation of climate change training, education and public awareness-raising.