‘Time to Choose’ Director Calls ‘Urgent’ Climate Crisis ‘Completely Solvable’

Oscar-winning documentarian Charles Ferguson reveals narrator Oscar Isaac’s special connection to environmental issues

Last Updated: June 2, 2016 @ 1:55 PM

“X-Men: Apocalypse” star Oscar Isaac will be competing against himself this weekend as the climate change documentary “Time to Choose,” featuring the actor’s narration, opens in select theaters on Friday.

Written and directed by Oscar-winning filmmaker Charles Ferguson (2010’s “Inside Job”), the film offers an expansive argument as to why environmental issues are at an all-time crucial point. While offering an array of disheartening evidence of the ravages of environmental damage from around the globe, the documentary also looks to the future with a sense of hope.

TheWrap spoke with Ferguson about the film and the issue.

TheWrap: Your filmography is focused on movies that take power brokers to task — including those in charge during the 2007 financial meltdown, depicted in your Oscar-winning documentary “Inside Job,” and also President George W. Bush in “No End in Sight.” Why did you choose to focus on climate change with this project?
Charles Ferguson: A couple of years ago I encountered … the idea that [climate change] was not only a very urgent problem but also a completely solvable one. That was the starting point that led me to investigate a film about this. As I started learning more, I also came to realize we’re in an extremely pivotal moment — over the next couple of decades we’ll make decisions that will have a very large effect on the planet for the next hundreds of years, perhaps thousands.

How did Oscar Isaac get involved?
We asked and he said yes [laughs].

What is his connection to the issue?
He has a relative who is a climate scientist [who] he’s close to. He’s quite sophisticated about the issue. He seemed to be naturally inclined to eat healthy organic food, his lifestyle seems to reflect his beliefs.

What is the most shocking thing you discovered while making the film?
There were several things. [One] that coal mining in China killed over a million people over the last 30 years — I had no idea. It was a very sobering thing to learn. Flying over Indonesia during burning season, that was very sobering indeed. Nothing prepares you for the reality of it, it’s quite horrifying.

What do you see as the biggest misconception about climate change that’s out there right now?
Of course, there are some people that still don’t believe it’s a real, serious or an imminent problem. Though I think the number of those people is rapidly diminishing. The evidence right in front of our eyes is getting kind of obvious.

The other misconception is that it’s a problem we can’t solve, that it’s very difficult or painful to solve, or that it would be very expensive to solve — that we’d have to abandon economic growth or prosperity to solve it. The more I looked into this, the more I realized that’s not true. In fact, if we addressed the climate change problem in a serious way we would — for the most part — be healthier, happier and more prosperous.

Where is the evidence that ecological responsibility translates to good economics?
There are several different industries and technologies involved. The oil industry has not done wonderful things for most of the countries that are dependent on oil. They remain some of the poorest countries and the most corrupt countries on the planet. Nigeria is in the film in a major way but similar things could be said of many other. Venezuela has the largest oil reserves of any country in the world — larger than Saudi Arabia — and it’s on the verge of economic and social collapse. So, having lots of oil doesn’t make you prosperous. Having an educated population and an equitable distribution of income is what makes you prosperous. Renewable energy is much more natural and congenial to that state of affairs rather having oil or coal.

Climate change is an enormous global problem. How do you think it will be solved, if that’s even possible?
It will be solved by a very large number of actions taken by a very large number of people, which is part of what makes it so difficult. For the most part, I feel trends are pointed in the good direction. But not universally, it’s hard to be optimistic about Indonesia, for example. I think that certainly the Chinese realize they can’t keep behaving the way they have been. I think that’s true of many countries. There’s a rapidly growing awareness throughout the world.

Watch the trailer for “Time to Choose” below.