A year ago, many political analysts thought one of the biggest conversations during this election would be that of climate change.
Instead, in the wake of two historically divisive candidates running for president, climate change has largely fallen by the wayside. But in Leonardo DiCaprio's latest film, Before The Flood, the urgency of this global issue is thrust into the spotlight.
DiCaprio, whose history of activism helped earn him a position as the U.N. Messenger of Peace on Climate Change, has spoken at the U.N. on several occasions. In Before The Flood, DiCaprio reveals not just how he became an activist, but how serious the threat of climate change is, and how its importance is being ignored by American politicians who make money from the fossil fuel industry.
"The more I learn about this issue, the more I learn about how much I don't know about this issue," DiCaprio says in the film.
That feeling is something you'll recognize when you watch the film, which touches on just about every aspect of the climate change issue. DiCaprio and his team have made the movie free and available to the public. You can view it in its entirety on YouTube below.
As DiCaprio notes, climate change is a tough issue to talk about. People either tune out or cite misinformation to claim it is a hoax, misinformation that has been perpetuated by lobbyists, politicians and political pundits who are influenced by the fossil fuel industry. Early in the film, clips play of Sean Hannity, Alex Jones and Rush Limbaugh criticizing DiCaprio him for "buying into the hoax of climate change," insisting that he shouldn't be talking about the issue without scientific training.
The irony is that those same people ignore the scientists: 97 percent of all climate scientists believe climate change is real, happening now, and caused largely by human activity.
One of those scientists is a man named Michael Mann, a geophysicist, climatologist, and the director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University. He has been the victim of slander not just from right-wing media, but from U.S. politicians like James Inhofe. Inhofe is well-known for reportedly receiving millions of dollars from the fossil fuel industry and also — as many believe, not coincidentally — is a prominent climate change denier. You may remember him from when he threw a snowball on the House floor to prove climate change wasn't real.
"These people are engaged in an effort to lead us astray in the name of short-term fossil fuel profits so we end up leaving behind a degraded planet," Mann says. "What could be more immoral than that?"
The film isn't just a history of climate change, though. It's also a fascinating re-telling of how DiCaprio became involved in the climate change battle. He even recalls a discussion he had with former Vice President Al Gore when he was in his mid-twenties.
"He said, 'this is the most important issue of our time,' and I had absolutely no idea what he was talking about," DiCaprio said.
But what Gore told him is even clearer today than it was years ago:
"All our modes of transportation, boats, trains, planes, cars, the way we produce our food, the way we build our cities, almost everything we do releases carbon dioxide, and that leads to climate change," Gore told him. "The polar ice caps will melt, the seas will start to rise, there will be more dangerous weather patterns, floods, droughts, wildfires."
"It sounded like some nightmarish science fiction film," DiCaprio recalled. "Except everything he said is real and its happening right now."
Throughout the film, DiCaprio goes on to prove these conclusions by speaking with NASA scientists, atmospheric scientists, astronomers, scientists living on the polar ice caps, politicians whose cities might be underwater in 50 years, global leaders who insist the U.S. must lead the way, and even President Barack Obama. The movie also shows exactly how people that make money off of the fossil fuel industry attack DiCaprio, climate scientists and spread misinformation to keep United States citizens complacent about the issue.
Right now, the Republican Party in the United States is one of the last political entities in the world to deny climate science. Recently, China publicly opposed Donald Trump's plan to pull out of the Paris Climate Deal. It was an unprecedented public comment on the U.S. election from a country that is also one of the leading emitters of greenhouse gases. It also showed just how important this issue is becoming on the global stage while it lags behind here in America.
While the movie hasn't quite made a splash in the political world, or been covered extensively on mainstream news channels, it has made a splash nonetheless: portions of the film have been viewed by 30 million people across the globe through various television channels, streaming services and social media platforms. That's the largest viewing for a documentary since 2000, and the largest for a National Geographic film ever, according to Deadline.
It's a scary and eye-opening film, but it's an incredibly informative documentary. And, most importantly, it ends on a note of hope: DiCaprio's final interviews are all with experts who make it clear it's not too late to save the planet.
You can watch it in its entirety below: