Guest essay by Eric Worrall
Vanity Fair asked academics to name which Game of Thrones characters match the personality and roles of their climate heroes.
Who Is the Jon Snow of Climate Change?
Game of Thrones-loving climate experts explain how every major player has a real-world climate warrior counterpart. (Tyrion Lannister is Leonardo DiCaprio!)
“There’s squabbling among the kingdoms about issues that seem pressing. But meanwhile, far away, there is this looming threat that could eclipse all of it,” says Katharine Davis Reich, associate director at the UCLA IoES Center for Climate Science. She’s talking about Game of Thrones—and also our response to climate change.
Of course, there’s at least one major difference between the two: winter is coming to Westeros, but disappearing on Earth. Still, both worlds’ most pressing problems involve a rejection of information gathered on the front lines, migrations of vulnerable populations that unsettle adjacent communities, and a potential tipping point past which there is no hope of survival.
Peter Griffith, a scientist in Baltimore, MD, who works in the field of carbon cycle and climate, made the connection early while reading the first book in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series: “Any time there was news from the Wall, and it was ridiculed by King’s Landing—the old stories that nursemaids tell to scare children—there was an immediate sense of, boy, this sounds familiar.”
James Salzman, professor of environmental law at the UCLA School of Law and the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management at UC Santa Barbara, admits that there is not an obvious analog for the Khaleesi, mother of dragons and hero to the oppressed. Then again, “maybe she’s Angela Merkel.
Wildlings = Pacific Islanders
“The Wildlings are the first to feel the effects [of the threat], not unlike Pacific Islanders and people in the tropics,” Griffith opines. Reich agrees: “If the Wildlings are the ones being terrorized by White Walkers, that’s like people in the tropics, who are already getting hit with climate-change impacts, such as sea-level rise in the Pacific Islands, or the permafrost melt that threatens Alaska villages.”
Jon Snow = Michael Mann
First, Salzman considers Al Gore: like the former vice president, Snow “is telling inconvenient truths. The Night’s Watch obviously doesn’t like what Jon has to say.” But after a bit more thought, he says, “Michael Mann would be better. He’s been pilloried.”
Really, the similarities are undeniable. In a phone interview, Mann explains his role as an activist: “I didn’t come to politics, politics came to me. Back in the late 1990s, when I suddenly found myself under assault by climate-change deniers looking to discredit it, and to discredit me, I found myself in a battle I never signed up for. Even though I would probably be happier spending my life the way I had originally intended—in the lab, educating the next generation—I don’t think there’s any more noble pursuit than trying to inform the discourse over what might be the greatest challenge that we face as a civilization.”
There you have it – Michael Mann is the pilloried hero who saves the world, by venturing into the darkness and discovering the truth.