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Climate Change Allegory

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Climate change, or specifically anthropogenic climate change, is the abnormal worldwide rising of temperatures due to human action, which causes abnormalities in the climate and ecosystem to catastrophic levels.

The Climate Change Allegory is a similarly worldwide, cataclysmic event that is inspired by climate change, usually with magical or supernatural causes/effects. A Climate Change Allegory is often used to portray the problem of climate change without stating it directly. In fact, a Climate Change Allegory may have little to do with rising temperatures at all.

Such events are usually:

  • Global: The catastrophe is one that is encroaching the entire setting, if it hasn't covered it completely; any places touched by it may have become desertified or a Polluted Wasteland.
  • Slow: The catastrophe is slow but sure, with more optimistic works giving the main characters just enough time to fix the problem, while more cynical works will focus on the depressing inevitability of it.
  • Man-made: The catastrophe may be completely caused by man, with perhaps some Green Aesop about the evils of consumerism and rampant industrialization.

Said allegories tend to depict not just the event, but the global response to the event, mainly the difficulty in getting disparate groups, with different goals and priorities and even longer histories between them, to cooperate to tackle what amounts to an existential threat. Criticisms will portray the groups as petty, short-sighted, destructively self-interested, selfishly nihilistic, or blind idiots. More sympathetic portrayals will focus on the delicate balancing act of the trade-offs between short-term vs long-term gains and the difficulties that come along with diplomacy and negotiation. Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism is in full effect. Expect at least one Ignored Expert, and perhaps a Terminally Dependent Society that uses some fantastic energy source similarly to human uses of fossil fuels.

A particularly fast one may be a World-Wrecking Wave. Flooded Future World is almost always also this trope. Expect one of these to be the focus of a Earth Day Episode.

Compare Fantastic Nuke, for an allegory of another existential threat to humanity.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Black Paradox tells the story of four people who discover a seemingly miraculous power source in the form of a gemstone called "Paradonite". However, Paradonite is actually comprised of people's souls, and the protagonists realize that using too much of it will result in humans going extinct as their souls are destroyed. At the end, they decide the only way to prevent the inevitable apocalypse is to warn the world of how dangerous its fuel source is.
  • DARLING in the FRANXX: The Earth underwent global desertification as a result of the mining of "magma energy", which turns out to be dead Ultraterrestrials, the survivors of whom, the Klaxosaurs, emerge from underground to avenge the mining of their brethren for fuel.

    Films — Animated 
  • This is a rather popular theme in the works of Hayao Miyazaki, who uses the spirit realm to reflect how human greed and exploitation are destroying both worlds.
    • In Princess Mononoke, humanity's unchecked growth and use of resources is represented by a conflict between Iron Town, a human settlement, and the massive forest it borders. Iron Town's presence is gradually driving the Talking Animals of the forests insane; being shot by man-made bullets is likened to a curse that slowly corrupts the injured into mindless beasts incapable of speech. Lady Eboshi, the leader of the town, dreams of going even further by outright killing the Great Forest Spirit and claiming his territory for herself, although unlike most examples, she's shown to have noble motives and genuinely believes that humanity's expansion over nature is itself a natural process. In the end, Lady Eboshi does kill the Forest God, but in doing so turns him into a Walking Wasteland that nearly destroys every living thing, humans included. When the problem is solved, Eboshi remarks that she and her people will have to find a way to balance their needs with nature's, rather than simply attempting to completely dominate it.
    • In Spirited Away, human pollution is causing all manner of trouble in the Spirit World. A massive Stink Spirit that comes to the bathhouse turns out to be a river god whose "body" was dammed up with garbage and junk, transforming him into a monster. It's later revealed that Haku is a former river spirit as well, but his own river was drained so buildings could be constructed over it, making him lose his name and therefore his identity. Unlike more cynical examples, though, Miyazaki offers a bit of hope — Chihiro is able to cleanse the Stink Spirit and restore him to his true form, suggesting that while humanity is quite literally mucking things up in nature, it's not too late for them to fix their mistakes.
  • Strange World: The fictional nation of Avalonia depends on the use of Pando, a plant that gives off bioelectricity, to provide them with power for airships, cars, lights, and radios. Eventually, however, it is revealed that Avalonia is located on the back of a giant tortoise and that Pando is a disease that is slowly attacking the poor creature's heart. Avalonia's dependence on Pando is literally destroying their world.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Color Out of Space (2020), a mysterious alien meteor crashes nearby a secluded suburban farm, and under its influence (represented by the titular psychedelic "Color" emitting from the meteor), the farm gradually turns into a barren wasteland, its inhabitants are Driven to Madness, and the local animals become creepy mutants. Though the movie is based on the eponymous 1927 story by H. P. Lovecraft, the director Richard Stanley stated in an interview that he reimagined it as a metaphor for climate change.
  • Don't Look Up is an Armageddon (1998) copycat as a Climate Change discussion, with the discovery of an asteroid the size of Mount Everest in a collision course with Earth dismissed by the Head-in-the-Sand Management of the United States government (led by a media-obsessed Trumplica, to make the allegory more blunt) and the typical mission to blow up the asteroid terminated mid-launch by an Elon Musk Expy who detects rare Earth minerals in the asteroid and tries to exploit this, leading to the complete extinction of all life on Earth except for a Colony Ship full of one-percenters which, it is heavily implied, is going to screw themselves up to death in their attempt at colonizing another planet.
  • The MonsterVerse has dabbled with this, especially where Godzilla is concerned. Perhaps it's best shown in Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019) with its take on King Ghidorah. Here, it is human folly that frees the alien monster Ghidorah, and the three-headed dragon proves so powerful that the situation quickly spirals out of even the human antagonists' control, especially after Ghidorah provokes a global Titan uprising. The fact that Ghidorah creates powerful weather phenomena wherever he goes sells this further. Not to mention, humanity's attempts to use technology to control Titans (the ORCA) or to simply exterminate them (the Oxygen Destroyer) just make things worse. In the end, it's only when the human protagonists assist Godzilla, the embodiment of nature at its most powerful (and most wrathful), and work with him and not against him, that they stand a chance.
    Ishiro Serizawa: The arrogance of man is in thinking nature is in our control, and not the other way around.
  • mother! (2017) has the invasion of masses of obsessive fans as a metaphor for climate change alongside the already-mentioned Whole-Plot Reference to The Bible. Him (i.e., God) and Mother (Earth) live blissfully alone in a deserted house in the middle of luscious green woodland. After He writes his bestselling book (the Bible), they are completely overrun with people and obsessive, violent fans. It also counts as a Compressed Adaptation, as the whole of modern history is compressed into a single night. The house is trashed, people fight and eventually end up filthy and in cages, they kill and eat Mother and His newborn baby, and Mother, realizing that her paradise is destroyed, sets herself on fire and appears to kill everybody except Him in the process.
  • In Pacific Rim, Raleigh Beckett says that while a normal person can only run from a hurricane, someone in a Jaeger can fight one. The use of Jaegers is to fight Kaiju which are classified into Categories 1-5 based on size, and come from the ocean to target coastal cities, with Kaiju getting bigger and attacks more frequent over time, and also having been drawn to the Earth because global warming made it more habitable for them and their creators. Humanity attempts to deal with the Kaiju by building walls around the coast that they hope Kaiju can't break through, but this fails, and the only way to really stop them is through coordinated international action to deal with the source of the problem, with the alternative energy (and explosion) provided by Gypsy Danger's nuclear reactor being used to seal the breach and prevent the Kaiju from reaching Earth. Also, their blood has environmental effects similar to that of oil spills.
  • Take Shelter could be interpreted as being about severe climate change anxiety. Curtis is haunted by an obsessive intrusive conviction that A Storm Is Coming, including possible Psychic Dreams about refugees and unstoppable rain. Sam tries to convince him that he's hallucinating and/or having some sort of breakdown. Various interpretations of the ending leave it open as to whether the ending implies that his hallucinations (and climate change) is real, or that the anxiety is merely catching.

  • Molly Moon and the Morphing Mystery revolves around a bunch of villains planning to gain control of the weather, which would result in millions of deaths. In the postface, the author Georgia Byng says that she intended the book's storyline as a metaphor for climate change to familiarize younger readers with the problem and let them know what they can do.
  • The Trisolaran Crisis from the Remembrance of Earth's Past cycle has often been interpreted as an allegory for the climate crisis, especially by Western readers. In the novels, a powerful alien civilization decides to invade and conquer Earth... but they still need 200 years to get here, during which humanity has enough time both to give in to despair and to try to come up with a solution. The above covers the "global" and the "slow" criteria, but the crisis is also man-made, as the aliens have learned about Earth in the first place from a renegade human who despised humanity, and were later helped by her followers.
  • The Others in A Song of Ice and Fire (renamed White Walkers in the TV adaptation Game of Thrones) are intended as an analogy to global warming, and more specifically for humanity's seeming inability to come together to tackle it because of shorter-term politics.
  • The Zombie Apocalypse in World War Z is implicitly paralleled to climate change in its early stages, with right-wing politicians (one of whom is a truly blatant No Celebrities Were Harmed for Karl Rove) trying to deny it because fighting it would be inconvenient for them.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Chernobyl: A nuclear reactor explodes and spreads radiation across much of Eastern Europe, directly threatening the lives of millions of people. Corrupt and complacent Soviet authorities try to cover up the disaster at first, and even after being forced to accept the gravity of the situation, continue to deliberately suppress any public knowledge of the design flaws that caused it all. Curiously, series writer Craig Mazin actually supports nuclear power as an alternative energy source to help combat climate change, just not the way the Soviets did it:
    Craig Mazin: The lesson of Chernobyl isn't that modern nuclear power is dangerous. The lesson is that lying, arrogance, and suppression of criticism is dangerous.
  • In the Dinosaurs Grand Finale "Changing Nature", MegaCorp WESAYSO builds a factory in a beetle mating ground, leading to a chain of environmental disasters in which, every time, the dinosaurs choose a short-term solution which actually causes the next disaster, until they've triggered an ice age and, it's implied, their own extinction.
  • Foundation (2021):
    • An aging, unchanging ruling class refuses to acknowledge or even take action to slow a scientifically unavoidable calamity while a young, diverse, and math/science-literate group prepares to build a better world after the coming collapse. If it wasn't obvious enough, Producer David S. Goyer has come right out and said the show is an almost direct allegory for climate change.
    • An even more blatant example (which wasn't in the pre-global warming books) in the planet of Synnax, which ignored the scientists who predicted a global flood and declared them heretic sorcerers after the flood actually happened.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation:
    • In "When the Bough Breaks", the Aldeans are suffering a Sterility Plague, which is discovered to be the result of their planet's ozone layer breaking down because of their planetary Invisibility Cloak.
    • In "Force of Nature", two Hekaran scientists discovered that high warp speeds damage the fabric of space time, and will one day render their planet uninhabitable. When the Federation Council rejected their findings, they resorted to direct action. In the end, one scientist sacrifices herself to prove their case and the Federation imposes a "speed limit" of Warp 5. (This was largely ignored in later Trek, the Expanded Universe explaining that Starfleet invented improved warp engines that didn't have this problem.)

  • The Adventure Zone: Ethersea: The world's dominant political power started to use magic freely without regard for the consequences. This resulted in a magical exhaust filling the atmosphere and eventually draining the ocean, where it developed into a cataclysmic storm that covered the planet's surface and rendered it uninhabitable. All remaining civilizations are the descendants of those who managed to develop some means of surviving below the surface.

  • Hadestown is implied to be set in a world suffering the effects of climate change. In "Any Way the Wind Blows", Eurydice sings that the seasons used to be stable, but now it's either "blazing hot or freezing cold". Following a massive storm, she winds up in the underground city Hadestown, which Hades has industrialized using fossil fuels in a futile attempt to appease his wife Persephone. For her part, Persephone is unhappy that Hades is forcing her to stay beneath the earth for longer than their allotted six monthsnote . Take away the Orphean Rescue plot, and you have a story about overindustrialization and overconsumption causing climate imbalance, which is abetted by the end of the show after Hades and Persephone reconcile, and he allows her to spend more time aboveground.
  • Wintuk is a Cirque du Soleil show about people in a modern city lamenting a winter without snow and traveling to the Arctic to discover the cause.

    Video Games 
  • Digital Devil Saga: The process of the sun being corrupted and the Cuvier Syndrome sounds a LOT like describing the destruction of the ozone layer. Slowly but surely, the sun starts emitting increasingly harmful rays that speed up global warming to an insane degree, actively kill all organic life, and for humans in particular, causes Cuvier Syndrome, which petrifies anyone exposed to it. And all of this is because the sun is actually God, punishing humans for their cruelty and neglect.
  • The Pale from Disco Elysium is a supernatural phenomenon that surrounds the known landmasses of its world. According to Joyce, it is "the transition between being into nothingness" and it is slowly expanding, threatening to cover all known matter. Although the creators of the game have not explained exactly how it works, it is quite apparent that it arises from the collective subconscious of humankind. This is another factor that makes it similar to climate change, since humans are ultimately responsible for the phenomenon.
  • In Doom (2016), the UAC is reimagined as a company primarily concerned with the extraction and research of Argent energy from Hell. This ultimately leads directly to the demonic invasion of Mars and later Earth. Doom Eternal further reveals that Argent energy is made from the souls of tortured humans.
  • The Flood of Light from Final Fantasy XIV is a very direct global warming allegory, being a disaster that made the grand majority of the world a lifeless, desert-like wasteland; the one continent that was spared of this fate has to struggle with limited resources, daytime lights in the dead of night, and horribly mutated Sin Eaters that devour the lucky and transform the unlucky into more of them. The city-state of Eulmore is similarly an allegory on the relaxed attitude towards global warming, being a city made up of rich elites who hoard resources and calmly await the end of the world in bliss, as well as having a leader who intentionally lets the Flood ravage the world for his own self-benefit and power.
  • The backstory of Gears of War revolves around the Coalition of Ordered Governments becoming the world's dominant power thanks to waging wars to control the supply of of Imulsion, a resource with powerful technological applications but which is also highly polluting. Experiments with Imulsion eventually creates the Locust Horde, which brings the COG to the point of near-collapse. The Locust Horde is ultimately only defeated when Imulsion is destroyed altogether.
  • Towards the end of GreedFall, it is revealed that the Malichor — a pandemic slowly decimating the populations of the developed world — is an example of this trope. Namely, De Sardet discovers that it is a direct consequence of the colonial powers' overexploitation of both alchemy and magic and of the resultant pollution weakening their citizens' bodies and spirits (hence why the isolated natives of Teer Fradee are seemingly immune). And just to drive the allegory home, the only one of the game's Multiple Endings where the Malichor is successfully cured is where all nations of the world set aside their rivalries and join forces to defeat it.
  • Iconoclasts takes place on a planet where everything is powered by Ivory, a substance drilled from the planet itself. The use and drilling of Ivory has been monopolized by the One Concern, a Big Oil stand-in which recklessly endangers the environment in their pursuit of Ivory and monopolizes it, criminalizing any attempt to secure it without their approval. It turns out that their drilling of Ivory threatens to destroy the planet, as it will blow up if it runs out of Ivory, but rather than finding a new source of fuel, they decide to run away from the consequences by building a rocket to flee to the moon, while actively preventing ChemiCo Contra from developing an alternative fuel because it threatens their monopoly.
  • Mass Effect:
    • The Reapers from are a galaxy-level threat to all forms of life as their "goal" is to act as a hard reset on life whenever organic beings reach a technological singularity after the robotic beings they will eventually create gain sentience and the two sides fall into never-ending war with each other. Shepard, however, is treated as The Cassandra by the galactic Council, who deny Shepard's claims and reject the loads of evidence Shepard provides them. In Mass Effect 3, your job shifts from straight Action Hero territory to diplomat, as you are forced to resolve centuries long conflicts between the different alien races in order to gain the resources and cooperation necessary to tackle the Reaper forces. You also learn in this game that the Reapers themselves were created by a long-lost organic race, which furthers the comparison between them and climate change.
    • The allegory is a bit more direct in the well-known "Dark Energy" plot that ultimately became an Aborted Arc. In Mass Effect 2, Tali's personal missions revolve around the mystery of a star prematurely aging due to the influence of dark energy. The third game would've revealed that the galaxy's use of Mass Relays resulted in an increase in the level of ambient dark energy, which is now accelerating the death of the universe, a parallel to how fossil fuels have undoubtedly massively advanced human technology at the expense of the environment. The Reaper's motivations would've been to prevent civilizations from abusing the Mass Relays until a solution to the dark energy problem can be found.
  • The beginning of Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey shows our world in a state of worldwide crisis, with pollution, riots, economic crises, and criminality covering the entire world; this ends up summoning the Schwarzwelt, a supernatural, expanding phenomenon in the south pole that acts as a portal to a dimension full of demons. Your team was sent to find a way to enter and stop the Schwarzwelt before it becomes too grave of a threat, and the Game Over screen makes it clear that if you lose in this effort it will swallow the entire planet. Even should it be destroyed from within, so long as humans continue to ruthlessly exploit the natural world it will always come back.
  • Tales of Vesperia pulls a Halfway Plot Switch from vigilante justice plot to this. As it turns out, overuse of aer-powered blastias creates and empowers the Adephagos, a giant magic squid that will eat the world. Long ago, it was sealed away by the very civilization that accidentally created it, but with rediscovery of blastias it threatens to appear again. To solve this problem, the party decides to enact a plan that involves destruction of all blastias, in a direct analogue to abandonment of fossil fuels, and replacement of poisonous aer with mana, comparable to "green" power.

  • One of the side stories of Tales of the Questor is about a Racconan scientist who is trying to find a cure for the bauxite poisoning that rendered the village of Silver Springs uninhabitable and is threatening to do the same to the rest of the Seven Villages. A specific point that gets brought up is that the problem is still decades away from becoming critical, but if they let it get that bad it will take exponentially more work to clean up.

    Western Animation 
  • Parodied in the Devil May Care episode "The Freeze", with Hell actually freezing over due to the Devil drastically altering the environment of Hell to make it more livable for humans.
  • In the Rick and Morty episode "Something Ricked This Way Comes", Morty and Jerry are abducted by Plutonians who mistake the latter for a scientist who still acknowledges Pluto as being a planet instead of a dwarf planet. The Plutonians treat Jerry like a celebrity because excessive mining of the planet's core by corporations has led to its reduced size and eventual collapse and no one wants to acknowledge the problem. When Morty tries to publicly debate Jerry using scientific arguments, Jerry merely shoots back with a crass Ad Hominem attack and everyone takes Jerry's side.
  • South Park: The titular cryptid in the episode "ManBearPig" is a metaphor for climate change, in the sense that it's not so much a threat as it is a way for Al Gore to feel important. Years later, when climate change became a more urgent issue, the two-parter "Time to Get Cereal" and "Nobody Got Cereal?" criticizes the lax attitude towards climate change, serving as Trey Parker and Matt Stone's mea culpa for their previously dismissive attitudes towards the issue. It reveals that ManBearPig was Real After All (despite having previously appeared in Imaginationland) and very dangerous, emerging after baby boomers made a selfish Deal with the Devil to get ice cream and fast cars, both of which are said to increase global emissions. Despite ManBearPig going on killing sprees across town and killing Satan himself in their Duel to the Death, people are still hesitant to believe that it's a big deal.