If the goal was to advance the cause of a collective world response to global warming, Nick News’ latest Linda Ellerbee special represents a completely backward approach — an utter miscalculation that enlists kids (mostly teenagers) to chide adults about the perils of climate change. Although the program acknowledges the politically motivated skepticism that persists in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence, this is precisely the sort of preachy, manipulative endeavor that will invite ridicule from those quadrants.
Ellerbee opens by urging children to grab adults to watch the half-hour with them, then proceeds to visit widely dispersed locations — Australia, Alaska, Holland, California, Kenya, the Philippines — to hear from “kids whose lives are already affected by climate change.”
No experts. No scientists. Not much in the way of charts and graphs. Rather, we get 16-year-old Boris and 15-year-old Frieda lecturing adults about their inaction and how it’s “high time for the United States to wake up.”
As a result, this isn’t just global warming for kids, but for dummies — embracing an emotional appeal instead of a rational one. Although the spec touches on more subtle signs of climate change, Ellerbee and producer/co-writer Martin Toub also overreach by weaving in arresting images of wildfires and hurricanes, despite the host’s disclaimer that “it’s hard to attribute any single weather event to global warming.”
Given Nick News’ laudable track record in tackling topics such as AIDS and racism, it’s disappointing that the righteous urge to spur environmental awareness obscured better judgment. With some conservatives positively apoplectic because Al Gore has earned so much attention for championing the issue, a more thoughtful line of attack is required.
Ellerbee speaks in soothing tones, but her unequivocal closing note is clearly designed to alarm. Global warming is “not a myth,” she says, and the danger is “already here.” Unfortunately, using kids to deliver that message hardly buttresses the case for this inconvenient truth.