Climate Change Hollywood Summit Online

November 11, 2009 • Daily Email Recap

If you would like to view Population Media Center’s Hollywood Summit on Climate Issues: “Changing Climate…Changing People,” the proceedings are now available at

The event was held in November 2008 in Los Angeles in partnership with the Writers Guild of America West, the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, Women in Film and the Environmental Media Association. The Summit gave attention to the health and security consequences of climate change and the role that population growth plays in accelerating the climate crisis. As mentioned at the Summit, the projected addition of 2.5 billion people to the world’s population between now and 2050 is the carbon equivalent of adding two United States to the planet. Writers and producers of numerous American television shows attended the Summit.

Key presenters at the 2008 Summit included Patrick Verrone, President, Writers Guild of America; Jane Fleming, President, Women in Film Foundation; Debbie Levin, Executive Director, Environmental Media Association; John Shaffner, President, Academy of Television Arts and Sciences; Dr. Howard Frumkin, Director, National Center for Environmental Health, Center for Disease Control and Prevention; Dennis McGinn, Vice Admiral, (Ret.) U.S. Navy; David Rambo, Writer/Supervising Producer, CSI; Chris Alexander, Senior V.P. of Corporate Communications, 20th Century Fox Communications; Dr. Neal Baer, Executive Producer, Law &Order: SVU; William Ryerson, President, Population Media Center; Steve Schiffman, General Manager, National Geographic Channel; and Professor Edward Maibach, Director of the Center for Climate Change Communication, George Mason University.

The format of the summit made use of presentations, panels, and discussion with the audience. It also offered something new: a live performance of a one-act play by Jon Robin Baitz, commissioned for the summit. The performers were three Hollywood actors: Bruce Davison, Brad Whitford and Scott Wolf. After performing the piece, the actors, in Los Angeles, and the author, via webcam in New York City, took part in a roundtable discussion on the power of the artist and storytelling to deliver a message. As Brad Whitford pointed out, the press, government and science were unable to grab the public’s attention about the consequences of climate change; it took a movie to do that (An Inconvenient Truth).

The day began with presentations under the heading of Climate Change – The Scenarios. Dr. Howard Frumkin of the CDC spoke of the possible impacts on public health brought on by changes in climate. Vice Admiral, Retired, Dennis McGinn commented on the security implications, both nationally and globally, of a world struggling with the allotment of limited resources.

Panel Two, Meeting the Creative Challenge, turned attention to what the Hollywood creative community is doing to address environmental issues. We heard from David Rambo, a writer and the Supervising Producer of CSI, and Chris Alexander of 20th Century Fox Communications. Rambo showed clips from an episode of CSI that dealt with water treatment contamination and explained how a sensitive subject could be handled without offending advertisers and public officials.

This panel was followed by the play commissioned by Lawrence Weschler for Earth Day and was presented courtesy of him. Then there was another presentation during lunch. On the subject of Climate Change – Turning up the Heat, Steve Schiffman of the National Geographic Channel showed the audience stunning and worrisome examples of climate change impact around the globe.

Ed Maibach of George Mason University presented An Inventory of American Attitudes, highlighting the responses to climate change among various demographic slices of the U.S. citizenry. The attitudes range from “very concerned,” where people are doing all that they can now to live a greener lifestyle, to the naysayers who don’t believe there is a problem.

The Climate Change-Public Health Summit was a one-time event, successfully packaged and delivered by PMC’s West Coast representative, Sonny Fox.

I thought it was very well done. I’m the Executive Producer of Survivor and I am out pitching environmentally related shows… I am extremely motivated to create programming for broad audiences and will find a way to do it.

Thank you for putting the conference on.

Doug McCalli
Executive Producer, Survivor

Your meeting on population growth, environmental impacts, and media strategies for engaging public opinion toward solutions was superb. The highlight was the one-act play, illustrating how adept story telling can be deployed. The remainder of the day’s events was also strong, and drew an unusually high quality of participation by attendees. Thanks for organizing a program that was both intellectually and emotionally rewarding.

Peter Clarke
Keck School of Medicine, USC

GREAT story! It was a fantastic conference, perfectly produced, relevant, and I think a catalyst for action. Thank you for inviting me to participate. It was a privilege to be part of the day.

David Rambo
Writer/Supervising Producer, CSI

I wanted to thank you again for such a worthwhile event. The kids have not stopped talking about it, and they now have some ideas they want to develop for a TV show for kids about protecting the environment….they are quite motivated!!!!

Trisha Simmons, teacher
Brought her class of teens to the summit

PMC has long been a proponent and practitioner of entertainment education through our work in 24 countries around the world. The summit format is a way to invigorate an audience and create a synergy of purpose among professionals from disparate fields, who, in this case, are united by concern for a common problem: climate change.

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