ABC Drama ‘Madam Secretary’: Climate Change the ‘Existential Threat of Our Time’


“Climate change is the most existential threat of our time,” announced the title character in the latest episode of the celebrated CBS drama Madam Secretary.

In Madam Secretary, renewables are the future while gas (the fuel which, more than any other, has driven America’s energy and manufacturing and stockmarket revival) is the enemy.

That’s why in its latest episode, titled ‘Thin Ice,” and deconstructed here by Newsbusters, the antagonist is a slippery Texas gas baron named Chip Harding (Kevin O’Rourke). The good guys are lead by an enviro-activist called Bella and, of course, our plucky Secretary of State heroine Elizabeth “Bess” Adams McCord who bravely says, “No” to Chip’s evil, clean, abundant energy.

The set up is that the State Department is taking part in an international Expo in which it hopes to promote the virtues of renewable energy. But because of budget cuts, they are now dependent on funding from gas baron chip who — not unreasonably, you might think — is keen to promote his industry at the Expo. Chip is also interested in a parallel plot line concerning the economic development of the disputed territory in the Arctic (where naturally he would like to drill).

Here, as per Newsbusters, is what happens next:

After the State Department helps an environmentalist group get out of jail and the leader publicly denounces companies that “suppress the truth” about global warming and wish to “poison the planet,” Harding calls up Madam Secretary Elizabeth (Téa Leoni) and demands the administration publicly support drilling in the Arctic Circle, threatening to pull back his funding.

Bella: I would like to thank the U.S. Department of State, especially Chief of Staff Jay Whitman, for helping to secure my release. For any part my group played in the violence at the summit, I am truly sorry. I cooperated with the authorities because I stand against violence, but silence is not a condition of my freedom. We will never stop denouncing the corporations and governments who continue to suppress the truth about global warming and continue to poison the planet.

Daisy: What is she doing? She was just supposed to apologize.

Matt: Well, you can lead an activist to an apology…

Bella: Until we end our addiction to oil and gas, future generations will suffer unimaginable flooding, pollution, and poverty.

Blake: Hello. Please hold. Ma’am, Chip Harding would like a word.

Harding: I sponsored the expo to boost my image, and what do I hear? Bella Rossi name-checking your chief of staff while she trashes my business.

Elizabeth: We assist all citizens, regardless of their perspectives.

Harding: Yeah, try telling that to my board. My inbox is filling up with some very unhappy perspectives. I want a public statement of support for drilling in the Arctic Circle.

Elizabeth: The administration has taken no such position.

Harding: Well, it’s about to. With no drilling, there’s no gas. With no gas, there’s no future.

Elizabeth: Your company has been saying that for 30 years, Chip, and it is as false now as it was then.

Harding: Yeah, well, the money’s just as green, so what’s it gonna be?

Needless to say, Elizabeth refuses, citing his company’s “history of hiding data and denying climate change” and Harding quickly leaves the picture, to the State Department staff’s relief.

Elizabeth bemoans, “It doesn’t have the clarity of battle lines on a map, but climate change is the existential threat of our time.”


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