Littwin: Romanoff asks which is scarier — his climate-change video or a changing-climate future?

JUNE 19,2012. The High Park Fire in the mountains near Poudre Canyon, Colorado. The blaze, which started on June 9, was caused by a lightning strike and torched over 85,000 acres. (Photo by Senior Master Sgt. John Rohrer via Flickr: Creative Commons)
JUNE 19,2012. The High Park Fire in the mountains near Poudre Canyon, Colorado. The blaze, which started on June 9, was caused by a lightning strike and torched over 85,000 acres. (Photo by Senior Master Sgt. John Rohrer via Flickr: Creative Commons)

If you haven’t seen Andrew Romanoff’s new apocalyptic climate video, take a few minutes — four, actually — and hold on. Here it is.

Assuming you survived the experience, we can now proceed, although you may need a few moments to either catch your breath or pick your jaw up from the floor. Or both. The video begins sometime in the near future — we’re told — with a family hunkered down in a Colorado Springs bunker. It’s 127 degrees outside. Tornadoes are raging overhead. Dad has the haz-mat suit on while trying to repair the foil roof. Mom is expecting to bring another child into the dystopian world and the little daughter is saying what she misses most is seeing the sunshine.

What I guess Romanoff is saying is if you’re not depressed enough by the state of the world, you can listen to his narration crackling over the wireless in the bunker: “This is not the stuff of fiction or some far-off threat. This is a clear and present danger to life on Earth.”

I don’t know if the video — which will air only on social media — is over-the-top brilliant or over-the-top desperate, if it’s more like The Road (the movie version of Cormac McCarthy’s great dystopian novel) or more like Lyndon Johnson’s Daisy ad. And while going viral on social media is an effective way to reach some of the climate-change audience that might support Romanoff’s campaign, the dark video’s failure to show some concrete steps in how the apocalypse could be avoided (Romanoff notes he has a whole list on his website) might well turn off a large segment of the intended audience.

Twitter reaction to the video is, well, divided, as you’d expect. And the movie critics are out in force. What everyone has noticed is that it’s supposed to be 127 degrees outside and yet people inside the bunker are wearing coats — to protect themselves, Romanoff says he was told, from the danger of UV-B rays. OK, but would climate disaster really bring unending tornadoes to Colorado Springs? The science, Romanoff says, does predict more tornadoes, although no one is exactly predicting precise landing points.

What you don’t need science to know is that Romanoff, who is running in the Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate, needs the exposure. Since John Hickenlooper made his late jump into the primary pool as a clear favorite, all the thought-to-be-viable candidates other than Romanoff have dropped out.

If this video doesn’t get Romanoff’s campaign noticed, I don’t know what will. Romanoff, who supports the Green New Deal, argues that the issue was getting little media attention in the Senate race before his video, even as rival candidates Trish Zornio, Lorena Garcia and Diana Bray were all making climate change a centerpiece of their campaigns.

There was a Senate-candidate debate on climate change — which Hickenlooper skipped and Cory Gardner ignored — as well as a series of candidate forums. Then comes the campaign video and suddenly everyone wants to talk about it.

”You add a little scary music,” Romanoff told me, “and then suddenly the issue gets noticed. We’ve had these forums, and they get almost no coverage. Last night I’m watching (9News’) Kyle Clark, and he’s saying Romanoff has struggled to gain attention for his campaign, and I’m thinking, ‘Who controls that?’ And then he runs the video.”

In any case, it’s an interesting experiment in fear vs. hope, or maybe fear vs. inaction, and there are some obvious takeaways beside the nearly quarter-of-a-million hits the video has generated:

The long, sad history of crises is that people do not react to them until the crisis point has inarguably arrived. The easy thing to believe is that scientists will figure something out and save us in the end. Haven’t we seen that movie before? So, you can argue that maybe we do need something just this jarring to wake people up. On the other hand, do scared-straight campaigns ever work?

The experts say an effective argument needs to include concrete steps that can be taken so we aren’t just left with a little girl pleading to see the sun shine. Still, the danger, according to the science, is real. And the expectation, as first-world countries must note, is that poor people around the world will be the first to be devastated and many are being devastated even now. And, beyond that, time may well be running out on all of us. Take a look at the fires and the floods and the droughts and the Category 5 hurricanes, and, at minimum, you’ve got to think something might be up.

It apparently takes more than cuddly polar bears in desperate search of ice floes to move the conversation. On the other hand, I don’t know anyone heading to the store to buy a holiday-themed haz-mat suit.

This much is clear, though: The hit on Hickenlooper testifying in favor of his safe-to-drink fracking brew is brutal — for Hickenlooper, that is. Climate is Hick’s weak point with Democratic voters — Frackenlooper is never going away — and Romanoff has tried to claim the issue for his own, in the way that, say, Mark Udall once did. Remember Udall? (If you haven’t read Susan Greene’s great update on Udall, here’s another shot.) It was Cory Gardner who beat Udall for the same Senate seat for which Hick, Romanoff and the rest of the Dem field are competing.

If you haven’t seen it, Gardner’s tweeted review of the Romanoff video is a gift to, well, Romanoff. Gardner called the video “insane” and wondered about Romanoff’s mental health. Romanoff agrees it’s a gift because climate-change concerns are a winning issue in Colorado and because, he says, “It’s the first time Cory has acknowledged that I’m in the race.”

What’s really insane, of course, is to ignore the threat of climate change and throw your support behind a president who says, in 2019, he believes it’s a hoax and probably Nancy Pelosi’s fault. We don’t know what exactly Gardner believes because he has probably said more about Romanoff’s video than he has ever said about climate change. But we know how he votes. And with whom he votes.

And we should know, as Romanoff likes to point out, that Gardner — one of the oil-and-gas industries’ most-favored politicians — has a seat on the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. That’s frightening enough even without the accompanying scary music.


  1. Oil and Gas energy is cheaper to buy, then the solar-wind bit, In too many places solar and wind units set idle, since the sun or wind are not always available, and the old gas, coal, and oil are reliable, reasonable, and lot easier to control and use. Has been that way for many years, decades, and century at least. EPA had made it difficult, and impossible to have dams, so water energy can be harnessed, which is cheaper and more reliable.
    ———Volcanos are erupting with more force, and destruction in RING OF FIRE, PACIFIC, and this has a terrible amount of power to change ocean temperatures, and wave action. And with exploding population, building on coast lines, many thousand of people are killed, injured, and this also creates the clouds, rain, with Storms, Tornadoes, that kill and injure. Also destroy so many residences, home places. Same thing happens with forest fires, droughts, making range fires, or other destruction, So I am not impressed with talk of Climate change, because I know this has been going on since earth rose from the oceans, all those millions of years ago, long before I was born. And at 90 years of age, I do not expect to see Global Warming, during what is left of my life time.
    ——-I have worries, but solutions are much more likely to be solved, then Global Warming in my time left.

  2. We need to see such images. People are as scared as they should be. Yes, we need solutions, but, obviously, we need motivation. The creative thinking that Americans so credit themselves with is happening with many, but not enough, yet. Romanoff has staked his campaign as one who will certainly address the climate crisis. Good on him. We need such leadership.

  3. I could only get the gist of Andrew’s ad on this phone but I have read and heard quite a bit about it. I agree 100% that the candidates for all offices aren’t talking about this enough.” Not in my time” may be sort of comforting but totally selfish. (And also not necessarily true). I’ll tell you who is most upset about our climate future–kids. The hundreds I marched with in the climate change strike in Denver. I’m glad Romanoff thought of a way to bring attention to the issue and anything Cory Gardner thinks is “insane” gets a thumbs-up from me.

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