Are you terrified about climate change yet? You should be. I certainly am. Granted, the sky filling with the ash of a billion dead animals will do that, but that’s not the only reason. I just finished reading David Wallace-Wells’ well-researched and absolutely devastating book The Uninhabitable Earth, which charts the future we’ll face should we fail to meet the goals of the Paris agreement (which, at the appalling rate we’re going, is likely; rather than a merely-catastrophic 1.5 or 2 degrees of warming, we’re likely to see something closer to 4 or 5). It’s tough reading, inspiring massive existential grief and guilt, as well as grim determination to change things.
Incredibly, the book is now set to be adapted for television by Adam McKay, who will also write and direct the first episode, as part of his HBO first-look deal. It won’t be a documentary series, but an anthology drama that explores the various effects of climate change covered by Wallace-Wells’ book (and the article that preceded it). Based on the chapter headings, we could see stories about:
- Heat Death
- Disasters No Longer Natural
- Freshwater Drain
- Dying Oceans
- Unbreathable Air
- Plagues of Warming
- Economic Collapse
- and Climate Conflict.
If McKay adapts the book faithfully (and with Wallace-Wells on board as a consulting producer, he may), The Uninhabitable Earth could end up being the most horrifying show in television history. It’s certainly in the writer-director's wheelhouse, considering his recent (i.e. post-Anchorman 2) focus on stories about historical and political subjects. His HBO deal also includes the rather-good Succession, now heading to its third season, and three more upcoming shows based on the Jeffrey Epstein scandal, the 1980s LA Lakers, and Parasite, respectively.
I, for one, am into this. McKay has two Best Director Oscar nominations under his belt, and while I often feel like I’m the only person on Film Twitter who liked Vice, we're mostly in agreement that The Big Short is the goods. We need more entertainment exhibiting the kind of righteous, incandescent anger that has set McKay’s recent work alight - and climate change is the perfect subject to apply it to.
The Uninhabitable Earth is being developed for the upcoming HBO Max streaming service; no release date is yet known, but it can’t come soon enough, given its purpose. Get ready to become intimately familiar with the concepts of climate anxiety, ecological grief, and species loneliness - not just because the show will likely deal with them, but because in the next decade or two, we all will.