Leonardo DiCaprio’s Climate Speech Effect

Photo by Michael Stulman/CRS

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Earlier this month, Leonardo DiCaprio won an Oscar for his role in The Revenant. His character in the film has a deep relationship with the natural world. DiCaprio’s portrayal landed him on the stage at the Academy Awards as the winner for Best Actor.

He thanked his family and friends, but he had a bigger message: reminding viewers that 2015 was the hottest year on record.

“Our production needed to move to the southern tip of this planet just to be able to find snow. Climate change is real; it is happening right now. It is the most urgent threat facing our entire species, and we need to work collectively together and stop procrastinating,” he said in his speech.

At Catholic Relief Services, we realize time is of the essence. Our work in more than 100 countries includes developing tools and resources to help combat the effects of climate change. We know storms are intensifying, sea levels are rising and rainfall is fluctuating, leaving many areas dry or flooded. It’s happening now in the communities we serve. They need help.

“We need to support leaders around the world who do not speak for the big polluters, but who speak for all of humanity, for the indigenous people of the world, for the billions and billions of underprivileged people out there who would be most affected by this,” DiCaprio said.

At CRS, we witness the effects of the changing climate on poor and vulnerable people around the world. Farmers we serve are losing their crops due to erratic rainfall or warmer-than-normal temperatures. Families we serve are struggling to keep their homes as the water around them rises.

In Laudato Si', Pope Francis reminds us that it is our responsibility to care for the earth—our common home. In fact, Leonardo DiCaprio met with the pope earlier this year. In a statement, the Vatican said their conversation focused on how to join forces to call attention to the need for action on climate change.

Recognizing that the awards show was a platform to talk about climate change was a good step.

“It’s interesting that Leonardo DiCaprio happened to be the one to highlight climate change in his speech,” says Dennis Garrity, the United Nations drylands ambassador recently interviewed by CRS. DiCaprio also starred in Titanic, an “unsinkable ship” that struck an iceberg and sank. “And where do icebergs come from?” Garrity asks. “They come from glaciers that were broken off due to climate change. It’s really poetic justice.”

“More people need to be passionate about it. Stars like Leonardo can help average folks to appreciate an issue like this that they normally wouldn’t pay much attention to,” he says.

With 2015 the hottest year on record, this photo gallery shows how a changing climate is affecting various regions of the world.

Ethiopia is currently facing its worst drought in 50 years. A dry spell extended through 2015 and, with the effects of climate change and El Nino, the devastating lack of water could last for much of 2016. Photo by Nancy McNally/CRS
A child in Zimbabwe walks across a stark landscape that used to be a watering hole. Photo by Nancy McNally/CRS
Magali Mukali returns to her home in the Democratic Republic of Congo after a mosquito net distribution for malaria prevention. Photo by Sam Phelps for CRS
Parts of the Dry Corridor in Guatemala lost 30% of their crops in the first year of drought. The second year, many saw losses of 70%. Photo by Philip Laubner/CRS
Lorenzo Antonio Leon of El Salvador  has planted corn using new agricultural practices that keep moisture in the ground. Photo by Oscar Leiva/Silverlight for CRS
Badoo Fukura of Ethiopia stands at the bottom of a basin that used to be the community watering hole. Water from rains used to last 6 months, but in 2015, it lasted only 2 months. Photo by Nancy McNally/CRS
Farmers in Afghanistan are trained to improve their food supply through seed cultivation and proper storage, which help them cope with the effects of a changing climate. Photo by Nikki Gamer/CRS
Because of the Syrian Civil War, millions of people have been forced to flee to Amman and to other cities. Drastic changes of weather can make migration even more grueling. Photo Courtesy of Murad Saidawi/Caritas Jordan
Hugo Tzoy Pú and his wife live with their six children in the Dry Corridor of Guatemala. He lost his corn crop when the rain came too late. Photo by Philip Laubner/CRS
A man tills his land in preparation for planting in South Sudan. Farmers have learned new techniques to mitigate the root causes of hunger while incorporating disaster risk reduction into their practices. Photo by Sara Fajardo/CRS
Sunset in Chabicouma, Benin. Photo by Michael Stulman/CRS

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