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What’s so funny about climate change?


A few decades ago, Canadian satirist Rick Mercer convinced millions of people to sign his petition for former Canadian MP Stockwell Day to change her name to Doris. It was Mercer’s creative and hilarious response to a bill proposed by Day that, if passed, would have required the government to hold a referendum for every petition signed by 350,000 people or 3% of the population. If Day’s proposed referendum bill had become law, Mercer’s petition had more than enough names to compel the government to call a referendum on the Doris question.

Hilarious, right?

It’s okay to laugh and make fun of politics and politicians, but to get that kind of response to act on climate change? Nothing will empty a room faster. (Except when I pulled out my accordion at a house party. But it was time for everyone to go anyway.)

When I was Raging Granny, we would take well-known songs and rewrite the lyrics to fit the issue. But I suspect if we change Elvis Costello’s lyrics to “What’s so funny about droughts, atmospheric rivers, and a heating planet?” the answer would always be, “Absolutely nothing.” Say it again!” (“Warby Edwin Starr).

Just for fun, I googled humor and climate change. There was a surprising amount of material. Something good. Some really, really bad. I let you be the judge.

It’s Trevor Noah from the “Daily Show”: “You know the crazy people you see in the streets screaming that the world is ending? Turns out they’re all actually climate scientists.

And what about this swap of replies between Al Gore, former American vice-president and author of “An Inconvenient Truth”, and comedian Stephen Colbert?

Gore: “Are you climate change? Because when I look at you, the world disappears.

Colbert: “I’m like 97% of scientists, and I can’t deny it… it’s hot in here.”

Colbert: “Is that a Delaware-sized iceberg breaking off the Antarctic pack ice, or are you just happy to see me?”

Gore: “I hope you’re not powered by fossil fuels, because you’ve been crossing my mind all day.”

To the old adage, “Dying is easy, comedy is hard”, I would add: “Comedy about climate change is harder”.

Funny is just not the first adjective we would use to describe climate change scientists or environmentalists.

The comedians, however, are beginning to rise to the challenge. And we desperately need it to offset the catastrophic scrolling, anxiety, fear and ecological fear of climate change.

Scientific comedian Kasha Patel found that it had to be “funny first, then educational”, as it communicates scientific truths while being entertaining. And she still hopes that she will motivate at least one person to seek out more information about the things she jokes about.

If you prefer videos, I highly recommend subscribing to comedian Rollie Williams’ ClimateCity YouTube channel to laugh and learn about the many ways we are killing the planet.

There’s even research that shows that fun climate change memes can bring people together, increase awareness of the issue, and relieve stress. Memes are often quite witty one-liners that are widely shared on social media, and the creators are mostly unknown. Anyone with a computer can create them.

There is no doubt that all kinds of copyright rules are broken when using images of celebrities and cartoon characters. Like this: “We need to start worrying about the kind of world we’re leaving to Keith Richards.”

There’s really nothing funny about our climate breakdown – except the ironic laughter knowing that our most successful greenhouse gas reduction came in 2021 at the height of the pandemic lockdowns. But that is perhaps our best quality as a species – being able to find humor in the darkest times on the most serious issues.

So in the spirit of the best comic tradition to make them laugh, here’s a final thought: “If the weather was a bank, it would have been saved by now.”

Susan Koswan is a freelance columnist for The Record, based in Waterloo Region. Follow her on Twitter: @SKoswan