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TV Production & Climate Change

Crew working on a film set

Is Film and TV production worsening the climate crisis?

Dr Pietari Kaapa, Centre for Cultural and Media Policy Studies, Warwick

Film and television and the climate crisis may not be two concepts most of us would put together.

After all, there are much more pressing climate threats such as the relentless use of fossil fuels and the wide scale destruction of forests and natural habitats.

Yet, one Hollywood film creates around 3,000 tonnes of carbon, the equivalent of driving around the world almost 300 times. The growth in streaming services, combined with bigger and more expensive TV production and international travel, means that the environmental impact of making film and television is leaving researchers concerned. 

New research into the impact of film and television production has found that streaming giants are making TV production worse for the environment than ever.

A recent report produced by Dr Pietari Kaapa (Director of The University of Warwick’s Centre for Cultural and Media Policy Studies) and Dr Hunter Vaughan, Senior Research Associate at the University of Cambridge, investigates the growing carbon-intensive infrastructure, high energy dependencies and waste production during filmmaking. 

The report, entitled Sustainable Digitalisation: Ensuring a Sustainable Digital Future for UK Film and Television, highlights that there's still a long way to go before the industry is fully climate conscious. It also recommends digital practices to help move towards environmentally friendly and socially sustainable filmmaking.

The team working on the project

Dr Pietari Kaapa explains: “Film and TV studios have introduced sustainable strategies such as digital shooting, LED lighting, and moving to electronic documents, but these solutions can only make meaningful change if a larger scale shift occurs alongside it. With the rise of online streaming culture, devices and technological infrastructures also need to adjust to reduce the profound environmental affect it has on society. 

Instead, the report suggests adopting “sustainable digitalisation”, although it acknowledges that this “requires changes that will reduce the reliance on practices such as metal mining and e-waste disposal in lower-income nations.” 

The report outlines recommendations that the sector and government should consider so that studios can move towards in a socially, and environmentally responsible way, making recommendations such as:

  • That the film and television industry lead on designing stringent life-cycle environmental assessment and policy frameworks to help achieve sustainable digitalisation. This could include assessing materials used, and the life expectancy of infrastructures and parts to minimise replacement and waste. 
  • The film and television industry should develop a Charter for Sustainable Digital Work to enhance social sustainability and labour protections against the threats of increased workplace digitalisation. This can include practices such as community assessments to guarantee that digital infrastructure in studios and on location do not harm communities. 
  • And finally, industry and policy decision makers should work together to drive reduction fossil fuel reduction and encourage studios to use renewable energy where possible. 

Read the full report.

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