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Leonardo DiCaprio is the most trusted authority on the climate crisis beating Greta Thunberg, Al Gore, and the Rock

Catherine Boudreau   

Leonardo DiCaprio is the most trusted authority on the climate crisis — beating Greta Thunberg, Al Gore, and the Rock
  • Americans named Leonardo DiCaprio the most trustworthy climate authority in an online survey.
  • Celebrities can unite people in a way that politicians and scientists can't, researchers said.
  • Only 2.8% of TV and film scripts produced between 2015 and 2020 included any climate-related terms.

The climate crisis and the movie "Titanic" have at least one thing in common: They've been the subject of passionate debates for decades. (I'm firmly in the Jack could've survived camp.)

Now they also share a main star.

In an online survey, Americans named Leonardo DiCaprio the most trustworthy famous authority on climate change and other environmental issues. The National Research Group, a Hollywood consultancy, conducted the poll of about 1,500 US residents in June.

The firm asked adults ages 18 to 64 to name the public figure or celebrity they trusted the most on sustainability. DiCaprio was the top answer, followed by the climate activist Greta Thunberg, former Vice President Al Gore, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, and President Joe Biden. The poll was weighted to reflect factors such as age, race, gender, and income.

"I think that really speaks to how in an era of strong political polarization, celebrities are one of the few unifying forces in American culture," Fergus Navaratnam-Blair, the research director of the National Research Group's global marketing team, told Insider. "They can bring people together in a way politicians, and even scientists, cannot. Science has also become so politicized not just because of climate change, but also because of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic."

Navaratnam-Blair said there were pros and cons associated with celebrities playing an influential role in the climate discourse. If Hollywood stars get people talking about the crisis, that can be a good thing. But celebrities often consider how advocacy will affect their personal brand, so they may shy away from taking a stand on climate policies that are controversial so they don't risk alienating fans. Endorsement deals can also raise conflicts of interest.

For his part, DiCaprio's environmental activism dates to 1998, when he launched a foundation that reported awarding at least $100 million in grants as of 2019 to global projects aimed at combating the climate crisis and biodiversity loss. That year, DiCaprio's foundation merged with two other groups and was renamed Earth Alliance. BuzzFeed documented 17 times DiCaprio used his platform to urge climate action.

Over the years, the Academy Award winner has also been criticized for his air travel, including taking gas-guzzling private jets to receive environmental awards, though he flew commercial to the 2021 UN climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, Page Six reported.

In 2021, DiCaprio starred in "Don't Look Up," a film that satirizes how powerful politicians, corporations, and the media have responded to the climate crisis. DiCaprio and his costar Jennifer Lawrence play astronomers desperately trying to get people to do something about a comet hurtling toward Earth, to no avail.

The film is part of a recent shift in how the climate crisis is portrayed on TV and in movies, Navaratnam-Blair said. "Don't Look Up," the action-thriller "How to Blow Up a Pipeline," and the show "Extrapolations" all identify clear villains, from tech billionaires and poll-obsessed politicians to fossil-fuel executives and a media that doesn't treat the crisis with urgency.

Compare that to "An Inconvenient Truth," the 2006 documentary that ended with Gore calling for personal action such as buying energy-efficient light bulbs and cutting down on unnecessary travel.

Navaratnam-Blair said the National Research Group's findings suggested that people who viewed stories featuring climate villains were more likely to support more-drastic actions, such as disruptive protests, than those who hadn't seen these types of shows and movies.

Yet there aren't many fictional climate stories on TV or in movies. An analysis of more than 37,400 scripts produced between 2015 and 2020 found that only 2.8% included any climate-related terms.

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