DiCaprio's Oscar speech cringe-worthy for some advocates of climate-change action
Environmentalists worry actor's use of common chinook as case in point for global warming damages credibility
It's hard to overstate how many people were paying attention when Leonardo DiCaprio won the Oscar for best actor at the Academy Awards Sunday night.
Aside from an estimated TV audience of 34 million, DiCaprio's win for his performance in the The Revenant smashed a significant social-media record, becoming the most-tweeted minute of an Oscars telecast with 440,000 Twitter posts in the span of 60 seconds.
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That crushed the previous record of 255,000 set when 2014 Oscars host Ellen DeGeneres set the internet ablaze by tweeting a star-studded selfie during the broadcast.
DiCaprio used his high-profile moment to draw attention to climate change, calling it "the most urgent threat facing our entire species."
But the way he went about it had even some of the most ardent advocates for climate action cringing.
The 41-year-old actor again highlighted his experience of a sudden change in temperature and loss of snow while filming The Revenant in southern Alberta as evidence of a warming globe.
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"Our production needed to move to the southern tip of this planet just to be able to find snow," DiCaprio said during his acceptance speech.
The incident DiCaprio described was widely believed to be a chinook — a weather phenomenon that occurs when warm air is forced downward at the point where mountains meet prairies. The effect, which is not a direct effect of climate change, is particularly pronounced in southern Alberta and frequently brings sudden bouts of summer-like conditions in the dead of winter.
While he didn't disagree with DiCaprio's fundamental point, Alberta-based author Chris Turner described the actor's insistence on using a chinook as a case in point for climate change as less than helpful.
@AdamskiPeter He describes it, and it's passing into lore, as this freak never-seen phenomenon. It wasn't. It was a garden-variety chinook— Chris Turner (@theturner) February 29, 2016
@DaveKotsibie Of course. Climate change is real, pervasive, potentially catastrophic. But if the science matters, it matters ALL the time— Chris Turner (@theturner) February 29, 2016
If you're wondering how many times, as an Alberta-based climate hawk, I'll have to answer for Di Caprio's ignorance? Answer is ALL THE TIMES— Chris Turner (@theturner) February 29, 2016
Others also had mixed feelings about DiCaprio reflecting so much of the spotlight being shone on him to a cause they believe needs attention, but using an example that isn't firmly rooted in fact.
Reactions across Canada
And it wasn't just Albertans who reacted this way.
Canadians from coast to coast, and even the Ontario Environment Ministry, were raising electronic eyebrows at DiCaprio's choice of words.
@jennjilks True. That awkward moment when you have to explain a chinook to Leo...(His climate change activism is still great, though!)— Environment Ontario (@environmentont) February 29, 2016
Yo, @LeoDiCaprio is a cool dude, but he seriously needs to learn what chinook winds are. It'll save him from any future humiliation.— King of Mediocrity (@thatquotedude) February 29, 2016
A shame because it's so good he's championing it. But he really should have asked a Calgarian what a chinook was https://t.co/lHSxMC7J0N— Puck (@SilverIodide) February 29, 2016
Losing the forest for the trees?
Others however, felt DiCaprio's larger message shouldn't be lost in the flurry of criticism over the chinook example.
Just read the transcript of Leo's speech, very well done on a huge stage. Message to #chinookpeople: stop whining.— Ben Cowie (@benjamincowie) February 29, 2016
@Brickwares We don't have to pick one or the other, as they're likely related. Chinooks are normal, nonstop chinook-like weather is not.— Kathryn (@Prairie_Kat) February 29, 2016
Regardless of the climate-change controversy, the Alberta government was pleased to see DiCaprio win the award.
"I am so proud to be able to say that another Oscar-winning production was filmed right here in Alberta," Minister of Culture and Tourism Minister Ricardo Miranda said in a release.
"I especially want to congratulate the more than 700 Albertans who worked as cast or crew on this production, including makeup artists from Canmore, actors from Siksika Nation and production crew from Calgary. I know their work was a significant contribution to winning these awards."
Alberta's film and television industry has generated more than $400 million in economic activity over the past five years, Miranda noted.
In addition to The Revenant, Alberta has also served as a production location for major Hollywood films like Interstellar and Brokeback Mountain, in addition to television series Fargo, Hell on Wheels and Heartland.
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