Media Influences: Live Earth

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Media Influences: Live Earth


Live Earth was a set of pop-music concerts held on July 7, 2007 to raise awareness and money for efforts to combat global climate change. The concerts were planned by an organization founded by entertainment producer Kevin Wall in partnership with former U.S. Vice President Al Gore. Performers ranged from super-star groups such as The Police, Bon Jovi, and the Black Eyed Peas to an amateur cover band composed of scientists stationed in Antarctica. Watchers were urged to reduce their personal contributions to greenhouse warming through a variety of lifestyle changes and through political advocacy of treaties and other measures to reduce greenhouse emissions. The concerts were hailed as a breakthrough effort to raise public consciousness of greenhouse warming and to take personal responsibility for greenhouse emissions, but were also criticized as vague and even hypocritical.

Historical Background and Scientific Foundations

On July 13, 1985, a set of famine-relief rock concerts called Live Aid was held. The concerts, which were held simultaneously in London, Philadelphia, and other

locations, were broadcast to an audience of about 1.5 billion viewers and raised several million dollars for famine relief in Ethiopia. In February 2007, clearly modeling the name of their event, its nonprofit status, and its multi-venue style on Live Aid, Kevin Wall and Al Gore announced the upcoming Live Earth concert event, which would feature one-day concerts on all seven continents and be broadcast to about 2 billion people, a third of Earth's population. Gore's 2006 global-warming film, An Inconvenient Truth, had already won an Academy Award for Best Documentary. The concerts were intended to increase awareness of climate change further.

Performances were arranged at 11 venues worldwide, including the Rothera Research Station in the British Antarctic Territory, where Nanatuk, a band of five British scientists, debuted on the snow in front of several colleagues, a few penguins, and a global broadcast audience. Other concerts were held in London, New Jersey, Tokyo, Hamburg, Rome, Shanghai, Kyoto, and Rio de Janeiro. Performers ranged from Nanatuk to world-famous bands and singers such as the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Duran Duran, Bon Jovi, Madonna, the Beastie Boys, Dave Matthews Band, Kanye West, Shakira, Kelly Clarkson, Genesis, the Police, Melissa Etheridge, Keith Urban, Alicia Keys, and scores of others. Gore appeared onstage at the Live Earth concert held in New Jersey.

Wall and Gore urged viewers to take a seven-point pledge. Signers committed to the following actions:

  1. Demand that the signer's country join a treaty within two years that would cut greenhouse-gas emissions in developed countries by 90% and by over 50% worldwide “in time for the next generation to inherit a healthy earth” (no specific year was named).
  2. Reduce the signer's own greenhouse emissions and offset the rest to achieve carbon neutrality.
  3. Support a moratorium on the construction of coal-burning power plants that do not trap and store their carbon dioxide emissions.
  4. Dramatically increase the energy efficiency of the signer's own home, workplace, school, and transportation.
  5. Fight for laws expanding the use of renewable energy and reducing use of coal and oil.
  6. Plant trees and protect forests.
  7. Support businesses and leaders who take action on climate change.

Impacts and Issues

A common theme in criticism of the Live Earth concerts was ineffectiveness and triviality. Reporters noted that concert-goers had littered the ground with thousands of disposable plastic cups at Wembley Stadium in London, and a reviewer in the New York Times marveled at “[s]o much star power assembled in so many places to assure fans that all they need to do to save the planet is change a light bulb, choose paper over plastic, or …turn off the shower while shaving their legs.” The reviewer, Alessandra Stanley, suggested that “it seemed a somewhat timid exhortation for such a huge expense of energy, talent, and time.”

Gore responded to this type of criticism by arguing that the organizers had not thought they would produce an instant turnaround. “I've been trying to deliver this message for 30 years,” he was quoted in the Los Angeles Times as saying, “and I know that it doesn't take in just one delivery. You've got to keep going.”

Another common criticism was that large amounts of carbon dioxide were released into the atmosphere by the concert itself, which involved millions of miles of air travel by bands and organizers. A few nonparticipating bands, such as The Who, were quoted in the British press as dubbing the Live Earth event “private jets for climate change.” It was stated that the event released as much carbon as 3,000 average British citizens would in a year. Concert organizers responded by claiming that carbon offsets such as tree-planting had been purchased in sufficient quantity to make the Live Earth event carbon-neutral, that is, not a net contributor to greenhouse emissions.


CARBON OFFSETS: Reductions in emissions of CO2 (or other greenhouse gases) or enhanced removals of such gases from the atmosphere that are arranged by polluters in order to compensate for their releases of greenhouse gases. Carbon offsets may be purchased by individuals or groups.

CARBON NEUTRALITY: An arrangement by a person or group whereby as much carbon dioxide is being removed from or kept out of the atmosphere as is being released by the activities of that person or group. Carbon neutrality is achieved when offsets equal the person or group's carbon footprint.

GREENHOUSE-GAS EMISSIONS: Releases of greenhouses gases into the atmosphere. To simplify discussion of how much warming is being caused by emissions of various greenhouse gases—each of which causes a different amount of warming, ton for ton—it is customary to translate emissions of gases other than carbon dioxide into the number of tons of CO2 that would produce the same amount of warming, i.e., units of “tons CO2 equivalent.”

Funds raised by the concerts went to the Alliance for Climate Protection, a charity set up by Gore after the success of his film An Inconvenient Truth.

See Also Lifestyle Changes; Media Influences: An Inconvenient Truth; Offsetting.



Hayasaki, Erika, and Alicia Lozano. “Live Earth's Embrace Circles the Globe.” The Los Angeles Times (July 8, 2007).

Sisario, Ben. “Songs for an Overheated Planet.” The New York Times (July 6, 2007).

Stanley, Alessandra. “Sounding the Global-Warming Alarm Without Upsetting the Fans.” The New York Times (July 9, 2007).

Web Sites

“Live Earth: The Concerts for a Planet in Crisis.” Live Earth, 2007. <> (accessed October 28, 2007).

Larry Gilman

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Media Influences: Live Earth

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