Climate scientist by day and climate comedian by night Josh Willis is on a mission to communicate climate change through one of the most powerful mediums – comedy.
Josh Willis, a climate scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, studies sea level rise driven by human-induced climate change in his day job. One of the scientist’s current missions, Oceans Melting Greenland, is measuring how the glaciers have changed and how this information can be used to better estimate global sea level rise. He has also nicknamed the mission OMG for short.
The name of the project was intentionally chosen for its acronym’s other well-known meaning because Josh Willis believes it’s important to get people’s attention before you can start a dialogue with them about what’s happening with Earth’s climate. And a good way to start that conversation, he says, is through things like commonly used phrases, such as OMG, and comedy.
Josh Willis has created a comedy sketch for kids about climate change. To assist him in getting climate change messages across through comedy, he also created personas such as Dick Dangerfield, a square-jawed puppet and climate change sceptic who accompanies the scientist in his scientific pursuits. and the much-loved Climate Elvis, who belts out “climate rock” on stage.
He said: “I created Climate Elvis, partly because I’m a doughy, middle-age guy with sideburns (laughs), but also because I feel he can connect with people in a way that I can’t as a scientist.”
The climate scientist is also a graduate of the Second City Comedy School, an improv comedy programme that was the launching pad for comedians including Bill Murray, Steve Carell, and Tina Fey.
In an interview with NBC, Josh Willis said: “I wanted to make global warming funny because I think people will have an easier time relating to it and understanding it if they can have a laugh every now and then.
“It’s a tough thing to communicate, and I think that we need to use all the tools that we can in order to really reach people and help them understand what’s happening to the planet.”