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“Don’t Look Up” Misses Climate Change Solutions in Action

Cornelia Poku
Cornelia Poku
January 12, 2022

Please note this blog contains spoilers for the movie “Don’t Look Up.”

The star-studded movie “Don’t Look Up” is an overt allegory for climate change and what can happen when the entire world observes an impending problem, but only a few take action. Sadly, the film ends with planet earth being annihilated due to the irresponsible behavior of world leaders and influencers. However—and thankfully—the ending of the real-world climate change story hasn’t been written just yet.

In “Don’t Look Up,” astronomers Katie Dibiasky and Dr. Randall Mindy, played by Jennifer Lawrence and Leonardo DiCaprio respectively, learn that a humanity-ending comet is headed directly towards the earth. They use advanced math calculations to determine leaders have about six months to enact a strategy. They bring this concern to as many powerful people as they can and are met with an underwhelming reaction of basically nothing.

Dont Look Up Biotech Climate Change

After months of delayed action, politicking, and media frenzy the fictional President of the United States portrayed by Meryl Streep works with NASA to devise a plan.

In the real world, we’re at this juncture in the film. Climate change has been a concern for decades and scientists are clear on how much longer we have to steer ourselves in a better direction. 2050 is the milestone year where we should prevent the earth’s temperature from increasing by 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Sometimes our battle with climate change feels fruitless—there are billions of plastic bottles sold every second, empty planes flying across the globe, and unfathomable acres of rainforests being cut down. 

But rest assured that unlike in the film, powerful people are not doing nothing. There are hundreds of biotech companies working on solutions to reduce our collective carbon footprint.

Traditionally, agriculture has been resource-intensive, requiring a lot of land while continually risking loss to expected and unexpected natural occurrences. Biotech company Power Pollen has created a way to preserve pollen so that crops—specifically corn—can grow and thrive in suboptimal conditions. This means that there is significantly less loss and thus farmers can optimize the land they are growing on and still produce enough food to meet global demands.

NuSeed is a company developing the plant Nuseed Carinata. This crop plays multiple roles—it helps remove carbon from the atmosphere to restore and revitalize farmland between growing seasons and is then used as a low carbon fuel feedstock that can replace fossil fuels.

In December, biotech company Virent provided 100% renewable jet fuel to send a commercial passenger flight from Chicago to Washington, DC. Now that the company has shown it can be done, we can look forward to airlines building up more sustainable aviation fuel partnerships and blending increased percentages of jet fuel to reduce the impact of flying.

And there are many more innovations with the goal of reducing the use of oil for plastic and even nylon.

“Don’t Look Up” infuses humor into a serious topic to hold a mirror up to our society, but the film’s ending is a worst-case scenario. If you need a reminder that it’s definitely not real, there is no spaceship cryogenically preserving wealthy people to travel to a backup planet. We all still have to share this one.