• Television

“Extrapolations” Explores the Effects of the Climate Crisis

Extrapolations, a limited series of eight interconnected episodes streaming on Apple TV, explores the effects of the climate crisis that already threaten life on Earth today and will likely worsen in the near future leading to catastrophic consequences unless more decisive action is taken to reduce global warming.

The series creator, Scott Z. Burns, produced the documentary An Inconvenient Truth (2006) about Al Gore and global warming; wrote and directed The Report (2019) starring Adam DriverThe Informant! (2009), Contagion (2011), Side Effects (2013) and The Laundromat (2019) directed by Steven Soderbergh.

Burns said about Extrapolations in a Boiling Point newsletter reprinted in the Los Angeles Times on March 30: “Let’s not have this end in 2099. That is a literary and human construct that isn’t applicable. We don’t have until the end of the century. I am surprised and frustrated that more filmmakers haven’t started telling climate stories. But nothing matters if people are bored and they turn off the TV.”

The first three episodes were aired simultaneously on March 17.

Episode 1 titled A Raven Story and set in 2037, only 14 years from now, presents a wide array of environmental disasters affecting the planet. Forest fires raging all over the world fill the atmosphere with heat and smoke. This could be a reference to Australia’s deadly 2019-2020 bushfire season when more than 10 million hectares of land burned and over a billion animals are estimated to have died, with many species pushed close to extinction.

A young woman appears as a hologram warning that she was born in 2015, the year of the Paris Agreement, when world leaders at the United Nations Climate Change Conference committed to limiting the global temperature increase in this century to 2° Celsius. Greta Thunberg comes to mind – the Swedish activist, now 20-years-old, who for the past five years has been demanding immediate action to address the climate crisis.

A large cast of characters is introduced, and some of their stories will be expanded in later episodes with the addition of more characters.

Tahar Rahim, born in France to Algerian parents, played the Guantanamo prisoner in The Mauritanian (2021). In Episode 1, he plays Omar, a U.N. delegate from Algeria who advocates for access to desalinization technology to provide drinking water to parched North African nations. According to W.H.O (World Health Organization), water shortage currently affects one in three people in Africa.


Rahim said on Screenrant on March 22 about his reaction to the script: “There’s a difference between knowing it or reading it, and seeing it. When I first read it, for me it was a conversation about words or ideas, but it turned out to be real facts, so I felt more concerned.”

Matthew Rhys, a Welsh actor, starred in the TV series The Americans (2013-2018) with Keri Russell, and Perry Mason (2020-2023), and acted in movies like A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (2019) starring Tom Hanks. He plays Junior, a wealthy entrepreneur who flies to Alaska in his private jet with his singer-girlfriend (Heather Graham) to build a casino among the melting glaciers. Glacier melt has accelerated during the past two decades causing sea levels to rise. Junior is one of several characters representing the wealthy capitalists profiting from the climate crisis.

Rhys talked on Screenrant about his character: “Given the amount of wealth that seemingly is pouring into his lap and the opportunity that knocks, he’s still angry and not very happy, which is a moral lesson to us all.” And about the themes of Extrapolations: “The takeaway is that the science we’re presented with is terrifying, and the timeline is probably even more so. But there is hope and optimism, a chance to redeem ourselves as a human race. Small steps can lead to greater things.”


Episode 2, Whale Fall, set in 2046, addresses the issue of species extinction. Large mammals like elephants and tigers have already disappeared but were virtually recreated with advanced technology. 

Sienna Miller, a British actress, acted in Alfie (2004) with Jude Law, Casanova (2005) with Heath Ledger, played Edie Sedgwick in Factory Girl (2006), and Tippi Hedren in the TV movie The Girl (2012). In Extrapolations she is Rebecca, a marine biologist studying the behavior of the last surviving humpback whale, so her species can be re-engineered. She assigns to the animal the voice of her deceased mother, played by Meryl Streep, who appears on videos recorded before her death from cancer.  We had seen Rebecca give birth in Episode 1, with her husband Omar, leaving the U.N. conference to be by her side.

Miller said on the red carpet for the Los Angeles premiere of Extrapolations at the Hammer Museum on March 14: “I study animals as they go extinct. By 2047, technology has developed to the degree that we can translate whale song into human language and I’m communicating with the last humpback whale. So it’s very emotional, poignant and moving. The show is really powerful, thought-provoking and important.”

Episode 3 The Fifth Question, set in 2047, explores the flooding affecting island nations and big cities, in this case Miami. 

Daveed Diggs, whose mother is Jewish and was named after King David, played Thomas Jefferson and Lafayette in Hamilton, the musical by Lin-Manuel Miranda, and the schoolteacher in Wonder (2017) with Julia Roberts. In Extrapolations, he plays Rabbi Marshall Zucker, seen in the first episode living in Tel Aviv, Israel, where his visiting father (Peter Riegert) was pushing him to move back to Miami.


Ten years later, he’s the rabbi at Temple Israel in Miami which is about to be destroyed by flooding caused by a hurricane. David Schwimmer and Judd Hirsch play wealthy Jewish businessmen who offer to save the temple by bribing city officials.

Diggs talked about playing a Jewish man of faith on Screenrant: “I have described myself as a pretty laissez-faire Jew, so it was a cool opportunity to reconnect with some of the elements of faith that I don’t think about very much. Judaism is one of those religions that allows for that, so it was cool playing somebody who has also gotten pretty passive in his relationship with the faith in terms of the activism part of it. I found a lot of parallels there.”

About how acting in Extrapolations affected him, he said, “We were provided with a lot of information in terms of what the temperatures rising really means. But what I was left with was how unconscious of my effects I am. It’s started a journey of making me more conscious again. I’m someone who definitely believes in climate change and who has often ranted about it, but I wasn’t really doing very much about it at all, and I’m still not doing enough. We’re gonna have to attack this issue from all sides if we’re gonna make it, and so I’m happy to be part of something that is taking a really big swing at attacking it from this popular culture side.”

Of the major cities around the world currently threatened by flooding, we mention Venice, Italy, where a system of 78 giant seawalls called MOSE, after the biblical Moses who parted the Red Sea, was finally completed in October 2020 and it has since been utilized 49 times with positive results.  But the question raised in an April 1 article in the New York Times is, for how long will this expensive hydraulic system be able to protect the city?

The other episodes of Extrapolations, airing weekly until April 21 and taking us up to the year 2070 when the planet is 2.59° C hotter compared to 1.2° today, feature actors like Edward Norton, Cherry Jones, Indira Varma, Michael Gandolfini,  Keri Russell, Gemma Chan, Marion Cotillard, Forest Whitaker, Tobey Maguire, Kit Harington and Diane Lane.

Saturday April 22, 2023, is Earth Day, an event founded in 1970, marking the birth of the environmental movement. This year the theme is “Invest in Our Planet.”


Read “Extrapolations” – Oltre il limite by Elisa Leonelli.