Science & Technology



Climate comedy works − here’s why, and how it can help lighten up a politically heavy year in 2024

Maxwell Boykoff, University of Colorado Boulder and Beth Osnes, University of Colorado Boulder, The Conversation on

Published in Science & Technology News

In a catchy YouTube video, British comedian Jo Brand translates a scientist’s long-winded description of the fossil fuel industry’s role in the climate crisis this way: “We are paying a bunch of rich dudes 1 trillion dollars a year to f--- up our future,” she says. “Even the dinosaurs didn’t subsidize their own extinction. Who’s the stupid species now?”

Although there is nothing funny about the subject, the way she says it is funny.

She speaks truth to power. She relieves the heaviness of the rhetoric. And she’s dropping f- and s-bombs with a British accent. At the start of the video, Brand comments, “If people like me have to get involved, you know we’re in deep s---”.

We all need some refreshing levity nowadays – especially this year.

Around the world, voters will be choosing national leaders in countries representing nearly half the human population. In many cities, states and counties, those decisions will directly affect how the world deals with climate change. Outcomes, including from another U.S. presidential race with Donald Trump vowing to promote fossil fuels and undermine climate policies and democracy itself, will reverberate across the planet. That’s heavy.

At the same time, the planet just came off its warmest year on record in 2023, and ocean temperatures are still abnormally high. Heavier yet, the 10 hottest years since record-keeping began have all occurred in the past decade.


Not only does the world need to cool down, it also needs to lighten up. As professors who study climate comedy, we can tell you that the need for levity is one reason climate comedy works.

For many generations, comedy has been an effective pathway to not only lighten things up but to propose unlikely solutions.

In ancient Greece, comic playwright Aristophanes took on the crisis of his times – the Peloponnesian War – with a comedy in which women from both sides of the conflict enact a sex strike until their men agree to a peace treaty. As you can imagine, sexual innuendo abounds.

Brand, the British comedian, teamed up with climate scientist Mark Maslin to find novel ways to communicate effectively about the climate crisis. In a video, they effectively communicate together about climate change causes and consequences. Humorously drawing out their contrasting communication styles, they find the funny as Brand pops up with observations like, “If you liked climate crisis, you’re going to love climate complete f---ing collapse.”


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