Our Recommended Climate TV Shows & Documentaries
Talking (or even thinking) about most topics these days, especially climate change, can be overwhelming and emotionally draining. In those moments, it’s important to remember that we are all in this together, and that we do have solutions to the problems we face.
A great way to learn about all of the available solutions, and take whatever action we can, is by watching documentaries, videos, and shows about climate change. That's why we put together a list of suggestions on where to start.
Here are ten climate change documentaries and TV series that encompass a wide range of topics, from climatology itself, to plastics, to the ocean, and even a look at our planet from the perspective of astronauts.
1. Down to Earth with Zac Efron (Netflix) | 2020
Follow Zac and his friend Darin on their adventures in France, Puerto Rico, London, Iceland, Costa Rica, Peru, and Sardinia, where they discover the importance of green energy, sustainable living practices, and taking lessons from nature.
The sequel we'd like to see would take a deeper look at how access to green living can be expanded so that it's an option for everyone around the world (not just wealthier people like Zac Efron and his friends).
That being said, the series does a good job of addressing the general topic of sustainability in ways that are fun and light-hearted, which makes the show a great conversation starter (especially for folks who don't know much about these themes to begin with).
2. Before The Flood (National Geographic) | 2016
If you could know the truth about the threat of climate change, would you want to know? Before the Flood follows Leonardo DiCaprio on a journey as a United Nations Messenger of Peace, traveling to five continents and the Arctic to witness climate change firsthand. He goes on expeditions with scientists uncovering the reality of climate change and meets with political leaders fighting against inaction.
DiCaprio also discovers a calculated disinformation campaign orchestrated by powerful special interests working to confuse the public about the urgency of the growing climate crisis. With unprecedented access to thought leaders around the world, DiCaprio searches for hope in a rising tide of catastrophic news.
Before the Flood presents a riveting account of the dramatic changes now occurring around the world due to climate change, as well as the actions we as individuals and as a society can take to prevent the destruction of life on our planet. Beyond the steps we can take as individuals, the film urges viewers to push their elected officials in supporting renewable energy and other measures aimed to put us on a more sustainable path.
3. From Paris to Pittsburgh (National Geographic) | 2018
Immediately following Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, Bloomberg announced a pledge to help fill the void. As the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on Climate Action and co-chair of America’s Pledge, Bloomberg partnered with California Governor Jerry Brown to keep the United States in the Paris Agreement by commissioning the necessary reports on U.S. emissions to the United Nations.
Paris to Pittsburgh spotlights the cities, states, businesses, and citizens taking climate action, exploring the very real social and economic impacts of climate change-fueled disasters, from America’s heartland to the nation’s coastlines. The film features voices from local leaders as well as everyday Americans' stories behind climate-related recovery and resiliency, as well as tireless innovative efforts to reduce carbon emissions, including boomtowns formerly reliant on coal such as Pittsburgh.
The city of Pittsburgh, led by Mayor Bill Peduto, stood up to defy President Trump when he announced the U.S.’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement. Pittsburgh is now a city committed to energy efficiency and is one of the many examples of bold economic and climate leadership in the film. Other locations featured in the film include Puerto Rico, California, Iowa, Florida, and New Jersey.
4. Our Planet (Netflix) | 2019
Our Planet is a groundbreaking, four-year collaboration between Netflix, Silverback Films, and The World Wildlife Fund. In light of habitat destruction and the Earth's Sixth Mass Extinction, which is currently underway, the documentary series shows us how today, humans have become the greatest threat to the health of our planet.
But not all hope is lost. The series shows us the beauty of our planet and the rich natural wonders, iconic species, and wildlife spectacles that still remain. If we can truly understand why nature matters to humans and all life on Earth, and what we can do to save it, then we will create a future where the relationship between humanity and nature is restored and we're able to thrive as one.
5. One Strange Rock (National Geographic) | 2018
Take a thrilling journey through and beyond our planet, exploring the twists of fate that have allowed life to exist in one of the most peculiar, fragile, wonderful, unique places in the universe. The 10-part series was filmed in 45 countries, on six continents, and from outer space. The narrative is told from the perspective of eight astronauts and narrated by Will Smith.
6. Climate Change - The Facts (BBC & PBS) | 2019
Scientists explore the impact of climate change and what could happen if global warming exceeds 1.5 degrees. Discover how the latest innovations and technology are offering potential solutions and what individuals can do to prevent further damage.
In honor of Earth Day in 2019, Sir David Attenborough hosts this compelling documentary film that dives into one of the globe’s most pressing issues: our changing climate. Leading climate scientists come together to discuss what may happen if global warming increases by 1.5 degrees. While that figure might not seem drastic, the impacts of this rise in temperature are significant both in terms of scale and scope, especially with regards to animals and their ecosystems. Experts examine the consequences of rising temperatures on ice sheets, fragile ecosystems, developing communities, and extreme weather events.
7. An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power | 2017
A decade after An Inconvenient Truth brought climate change into popular culture, comes the riveting and rousing follow-up that shows just how close we are to a real energy revolution. Vice President Al Gore continues his tireless fight traveling around the world training an army of climate champions and influencing international climate policy. Cameras follow him behind the scenes – in moments both private and public, funny and poignant – as he pursues the inspirational idea that while the stakes have never been higher, the perils of climate change can be overcome with human ingenuity and passion.
The documentary film follows the efforts made to tackle climate change and Al Gore's attempts to persuade governmental leaders to invest in renewable energy, culminating in the signing of the Paris Agreement in 2016, as well as attempting to de-bunk the de-bunkers of Gore, his film, and global warming in general.
8. Chasing Coral (Netflix) | 2017
Coral reefs around the world are vanishing at an unprecedented rate. A team of divers, photographers, and scientists set out on a thrilling ocean adventure to discover why and to reveal the underwater mystery to the world.
An advertising executive named Richard Vevers decided several years ago to quit the ad business and devote his life to ocean conservation, both because he was getting fed up with the corporate world and because he decided the issue of marine catastrophe was essentially "an advertising problem." He's particularly fascinated by coral, the colorful and immensely photogenic invertebrates who form the backbone of ocean ecosystems. So Vevers assembles a crew of researchers and underwater photographers to document the process of coral bleaching, the mass ocean epidemic where coral polyps release too much of their algae and starve themselves (thus losing all their color, and ultimately, their life).
9. The True Cost (Life Is My Movie Entertainment) | 2015
This is a story about clothing: the clothes we wear, the people who make them, and the impact the industry is having on our world. Clothes' price tags have been decreasing for decades, while the human and environmental costs of clothing production have grown dramatically. The True Cost is a groundbreaking documentary film that pulls back the curtain on the untold story and asks us to consider: who really pays the price for our clothing?
Filmed in countries all over the world, from the brightest runways to the darkest slums, and featuring interviews with the world’s leading influencers including Stella McCartney, Livia Firth, and Vandana Shiva, The True Cost invites us on an eye-opening journey around the world and into the lives of the many people and places behind our clothes.
10. The Story of Plastic (Discovery) | 2019
The Story of Plastic takes a sweeping look at the man-made crisis of plastic pollution and the worldwide effect it has on the health of our planet and the people who inhabit it. Spanning three continents, the documentary film illustrates the ongoing catastrophe: fields full of garbage, veritable mountains of trash, rivers and seas clogged with waste, and skies choked with the poisonous emissions from plastic production and processing.
The Story of Plastic features interviews with experts and activists on the front lines of the fight, revealing the disastrous consequences of the flood of plastic smothering ecosystems and poisoning communities around the world, and the global movement that is rising up in response. With engaging original animation, archival industry footage beginning in the 1930s, and first-person accounts of the unfolding emergency, the documentary film distills a complex problem that is increasingly affecting the planet’s and its residents’ well-being.