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'Game of Thrones' Actor Urges Us to Protect our Northern Ice Walls In Real Life

Credit: Macall B. Polay/HBO

With only one episode left in the current season of “Game of Thrones,” things are heating up in Westeros.

But according to actor and activist Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, better known as Jamie Lannister on the show, we ought to be more concerned with the rapidly changing climate in our own world than the fantasy lands of his fictional home.

In a recent op-ed he wrote for CNN, the Danish actor argues that the stark but beautiful territory of Westeros’ snow-covered north can offer us a lesson about the importance of protecting our environment for generations to come.

“One of the many stunning visual images on regular display is an overwhelmingly massive wall of ice. I know all too well that, were ‘Game of Thrones’ a nonfiction world, that wall of ice would be seriously imperiled by climate change,” he wrote.

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One reason for Coster-Waldau’s dedicated advocacy on this issue stems from his part-time residency in the Nordic country of Greenland. Both of his daughters are half Greenlandic, and his wife hails from the town of Uummannaq in the northwest part of the country. Though Greenland may seem like almost as fantastical a place as the world of “Game of Thrones” to many people, the very real consequences of rising global temperatures could be devastating to a country which is 80% covered in a thick sheet of ice.

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For Coster-Waldau, the effects of climate change on this ice-laden country are not limited to the residents of its borders. The actor notes that according to experts, “if the Greenland ice sheet does indeed melt, sea levels would rise 20 feet (6 meters).” Coastal cities both in the U.S and around the world would be hit hard by flooding, potentially displacing millions of people in the process.

The Greenland ice sheet has already started to melt in the wake of steadily rising temperatures each year. According to the National Snow and Ice Center, from 1979 to 2006 the ice sheet increased its summer melt by 30%, reaching record levels of melting in the summer of 2007.

Coster-Waldau worries that if we fail to take immediate action to combat the effects of global climate change, we might not be able to provide a safe and secure world for our children. For his part, the actor has accepted a position as a goodwill ambassador to the United Nations Development Program where he works with other members to help implement the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. The UNDP created these goals to provide a roadmap to “end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all.”

In order to achieve this, Coster-Waldau emphasizes the need to understand that all of the sustainable development goals are interrelated: “Failing to act on one, such as climate change, can have enormous negative consequences on another, such as hunger, poverty, ocean life, energy and even education.”

Like his character in “Game of Thrones”, Coster-Waldau advocates for bravery in the face of challenge: “We must not bury our heads in the sand when it comes to climate change -- we must instead have the courage to make other changes to preserve the stability and safety of our planet.”

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Here at Global Citizen, we agree with Coster-Waldau that climate change poses a complicated threat to well-being for people across the world. You can help us to take action against climate change and global pandemics here.