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Nikolaj Coster-Waldau at HBO's "Game Of Thrones" Season 3 Seattle Premiere at Cinerama. Coster-Waldau believes winter in GoT is a metaphor for climate change. (c) Suzi Pratt, via Flickr
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Jaime Lannister warns Game of Thrones fans of the threat of climate change

Joe Ware

1 September, 2017

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, the actor behind Jaime Lannister in Game of Thrones, has confirmed our suspicions that the threat of winter in the hit HBO show is a metaphor for climate change. JOE WARE reports (spoiler alert!).

I have seen first hand the devastating effects of rising temperatures on the delicate ecosystem of the world's largest island

So Game of Thrones Season 7 is for many viewers fading into memory and now the long wait for the final instalment begins, a wait that may last until 2019.  Already at The Ecologist we’ve examined how one subtle metaphor has slowly become more "Stark" in the hit HBO adaptation of the fantasy novels by George R.R. Martin.

The parallels between the coming ‘winter’ in Westeros posed by the undead hordes of the White Walkers and our own climate threat has broken into the real world with one of the show’s lead actors making a direct plea for action to address climate change.

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, aka Jaime Lannister, the knight with the chiselled jawline, has written an article for calling for action to reduce emissions and promote renewable energy.

Devastating effects

Writing of the huge wall of ice which features regularly in the TV show he said: “I know all too well that, were Game of Thrones a nonfiction world, that wall of ice would be seriously imperilled by climate change. I know this because my second home is in the similarly ice-rich territory of Greenland.

"My wife is from Uummannaq in the northwest of Greenland, and my two daughters are half Greenlandic. In the considerable time I have spent there, I have seen first hand the devastating effects of rising temperatures on the delicate ecosystem of the world's largest island.”

He admitted that the fate of Greenland is not normally of concern to most Americans but went on to warn that it should be. “If the Greenland ice sheet - which covers 80 per cent of Greenland - melts, the results for the rest of the planet will be monumental. And not in a good way.

"Experts predict that, if the Greenland ice sheet does indeed melt, sea levels would rise 20 feet. The risks of climate change do not end at simply rising sea levels, which alone should be of concern to residents of New York, Miami, New Orleans and scores of other major metropolitan areas in the United States.”

Coster-Waldau travelled to the melting ice sheet of Greenland earlier this year and has been made a goodwill ambassador to the United Nations Development Programme. His article coincides with a meeting in his Danish homeland of UNLEASH Lab, a gathering of more than a thousand millennial thought leaders from 129 countries, aiming to help the world deliver the Sustainable Development Goals.

An enemy they don't believe in

It’s certainly welcome to have the issue of climate change being raised by well-known faces that offer more public communication cut-through than your average atmospheric scientist (no offence to any atmospheric scientists reading. Keep up the great work).

Maybe Coster-Waldau will become the small screen equivalent of Australian rugby international David Pocock who has long used his celebrity to make the case for climate action. In 2015 Pocock was arrested for chaining himself to mining equipment at a coal mine in New South Wales.

The climate change metaphor shows no sign of slowing down. The exchange between Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen which inspired our original article left Snow frustrated that he had been unable to convince Targaryen of the impending danger. “How do I convince people who don't know me that an enemy they don't believe in is coming to kill them all” he asks Tyrion Lannister.

In this season’s penultimate episode, Targaryen ends up flying her dragons north of the wall to rescue Snow, who is surrounded by the White Walker’s zombie horde.

Like Coster-Waldau witnessing first hand the melting Greenland ice sheets, the formerly sceptical Targaryen is convinced of the urgent danger. She concludes the episode saying: “If we hadn’t gone I wouldn’t have seen. You have to see it to know. Now I know.”

This Author 

Joe Ware is a journalist and writer at Christian Aid and a New Voices contributor for The Ecologist. Follow him on twitter @wareisjoe.


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