George R.R. Martin reveals the climate change lesson from Game of Thrones

"Climate change should be the number one priority for any politician," says best-selling author.

George R.R. Martin Writer/Co-Executive Producer attends HBO's "Game Of Thrones" Season 5 San Francisco Premiere, March 23, 2015. CREDIT: Steve Jennings/WireImage
George R.R. Martin Writer/Co-Executive Producer attends HBO's "Game Of Thrones" Season 5 San Francisco Premiere, March 23, 2015. CREDIT: Steve Jennings/WireImage

The author of the “Game of Throne” books that became a hit HBO series told the New York Times this week that, yes, his work has “a great parallel” to modern day climate change.

Pundits and fans alike have long argued that Martin’s fantasy epic is a climate change metaphor or parable since a major theme is that the climate is about to change for the worse in a way that endangers everyone.

Even Reuters weighed in a few years ago with an article asking “Is ‘Game of Thrones’ aiding the global debate on climate change?

But Martin has rarely talked about the metaphor. In a 2013 Al Jazeera America interview, Martin did explain that a recurring theme in world history is “people being so consumed by their petty struggles for power … they’re blind to the much greater and more dangerous threats.”


He added briefly that “climate change … is something that can wipe out the human race. So, I wanted to do an analogue with the work, not specifically to the modern-day thing but as a general thing”.

But in a new Q&A with New York Times reporters published on Oct. 16, Martin offers his longest answer to date on the subject of whether he agrees with those who say “Game of Thrones” is “a perfect metaphor for understanding climate change.”

Martin notes that “It’s kind of ironic because I started writing ‘Game of Thrones’ all the way back in 1991, long before anybody was talking about climate change.”

He then adds that the “parallel” is that his characters “are fighting their individual battles over power and status and wealth. And those are so distracting [for] them that they’re ignoring the threat of ‘winter is coming,’ which has the potential to destroy all of them and to destroy their world.”

Martin expands on this point:

And there is a great parallel there to, I think, what I see this planet doing here, where we’re fighting our own battles. We’re fighting over issues, important issues, mind you — foreign policy, domestic policy, civil rights, social responsibility, social justice. All of these things are important. But while we’re tearing ourselves apart over this and expending so much energy, there exists this threat of climate change, which, to my mind, is conclusively proved by most of the data and 99.9 percent of the scientific community. And it really has the potential to destroy our world.

Yes, he says, we should worry about all of these different social and political issues. “But none of them are important if, like, we’re dead and our cities are under the ocean. So really, climate change should be the number one priority for any politician who is capable of looking past the next election. But unfortunately, there are only a handful of those.”


And President Donald Trump isn’t one of them. Indeed, in his most recent interview, Trump accused climate scientists of “having a political agenda” and then actually asserted that while he agrees the climate is changing, “it could very well go back” to a period of stable or cooler temperatures.

But that couldn’t happen without exactly the kind of strong climate policies Trump opposes.

What kind of politician does Martin think President Donald Trump is? When New York Times op-ed columnist Maureen Dowd asks him which of his characters remind him most of Trump, he immediately leaps to the ruthlessly immoral teenage king Joffrey Baratheon.

“They have the same level of emotional maturity,” he said. “And Joffrey likes to remind everyone that he’s king. And he thinks that gives him the ability to do anything…. so, yeah, Joffrey is Trump.”