Since the mid-2000s, entertainment celebrities have played increasingly prominent roles in the cultural politics of climate change, ranging from high-profile speeches at UN climate conferences, and social media interactions with their fans, to producing and appearing in documentaries about climate change that help give meaning to and communicate this issue to a wider audience. The role afforded to celebrities as climate change communicators is an outcome of a political environment increasingly influenced by public relations and attuned towards the media’s representation of political ideas, policies and sentiments. Celebrities act as representatives of mass publics, operating within centres of elite political power. At the same time, celebrities represent the environmental concerns of their audiences; that is, they embody the sentiments of their audiences on the political stage. It is in this context that celebrities have gained their authority as political, social and environmental ‘experts’, and the political performances of celebrities provide important ways to engage electorates and audiences with climate change action. More recently, celebrities offer novel engagements with climate change that move beyond scientific data and facilitate more emotional and visceral connections with climate change in the public’s everyday lives. Contemporary celebrities, thus, work to shape how audiences and publics ought to feel about climate change in efforts to get them to act or change their behaviours. These ‘after data’ moments are seen very clearly in Leonardo DiCaprio’s documentary Before the Flood. Yet, with celebrities acting as our emotional witnesses, they not only might bring climate change to greater public attention, but they expand their brand through neoliberalism’s penchant for the commoditization of everything including, as here, care and concern for the environment. As celebrities build up their own personal capital as eco-warriors, they create very real value for the ‘celebrity industrial complex’ that lies behind their climate media interventions. Climate change activism is, through climate celebrities, rendered as spectacle, with celebrities acting as environmental and climate pedagogues framing for audiences the emotionalized problems and solutions to global environmental change. Consequently, celebrities politicize emotions in ways that that remain circumscribed by neoliberal solutions and actions that responsibilise audiences and the public.
|Title of host publication||Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Climate Science|
|Place of Publication||Oxford|
|Publisher||Oxford University Press (OUP)|
|Publication status||Published - 1 Sep 2017|
- climate change communication
- media and climate change
Doyle, J., Farrell, N., & Goodman, M. K. (2017). Celebrities and Climate Change. In Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Climate Science Oxford: Oxford University Press (OUP). https://doi.org/10.1093/acrefore/9780190228620.013.596