Climate Change and Biodiversity Decline Documentaries

by Ailbhe Cannon

Uncertain about how to become more informed about the environmental challenges our planet faces and overwhelmed by the magnitude of the climate and biodiversity crisis? Documentaries provide easy, quick ways to become more knowledgeable on these issues. This collection of eight documentaries offers an accessible and digestible look at climate change and biodiversity decline as well as simple lifestyle changes you can make to reduce your negative impact on the environment. By the time the end credits roll, you will hopefully have a better understanding of the world around you, and will feel better equipped to play a part in environmental protection. 

Our Planet

This groundbreaking series is a collaboration between David Attenborough, Silverback Films, and the World Wildlife Fund which exhibits the stunning diversity and beauty of the natural world while providing an overview of how climate change threatens this precious biodiversity. The series is divided into eight episodes, with each episode devoted to examining a different habitat and the unique environmental challenges particular to the flora and fauna who live there. While other documentaries produced by Attenborough such as Planet Earth and Blue Planet are certainly essential viewing for anyone with even a passing interest in the environment, Our Planet marks a departure for Attenborough as it focuses more on how humans impact the environment than his previous nature documentaries. Each episode is available to stream free of charge on YouTube. 

David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet 

 In this film, Attenborough draws on his over half a century’s worth of experience with the natural world to assess the scale of the climate and biodiversity crisis. Rather than proposing a single solution to the sixth mass extinction event, Attenborough asserts that saving our planet requires an overwhelming transformation of our mentality vis à vis the natural world. “We need to work with nature, rather than against it,” Attenborough declares. David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet is an elegy to the beauty of the natural world and all we stand to lose as we grapple with the greatest challenge humanity has ever faced. This documentary is available to watch on Netflix. 

Breaking Boundaries: The Science of Our Planet 

In Breaking Boundaries: The Science of Our Planet David Attenborough and acclaimed environmental scientist Johan Rockström present a dire warning on the future of our planet. The nine planetary boundaries, a theory pioneered by Rockström which outlines the boundaries within which the global community must operate to prevent the collapse of our planet’s life support systems, is at the heart of this documentary. Röckstrom explains that his reaction to the inaction of the global political community in response to the climate and biodiversity crisis is not one of despondency, but of anger. This film will undoubtedly inspire viewers to join Rockstöm in his quest to save our planet and is available to stream on Netflix.

“The crew behind Before the Flood spent three years travelling around the world, documenting the catastrophic impacts of climate change, interviewing climate scientists, innovators, and policy-makers”

Before the Flood 

Between starring in blockbuster films and spending copious amounts of time on his yacht, Academy Award winner and passionate environmentalist Leonardo DiCaprio produced this award-winning documentary. The crew behind Before the Flood spent three years travelling around the world, documenting the catastrophic impacts of climate change, interviewing climate scientists, innovators, and policy-makers, as well as delving into the pressing issues of climate inaction and climate change denial. National Geographic, who helped produce the documentary, proved their commitment to covering the extent of the climate crisis by making the documentary easily accessible and free to watch on several streaming platforms. It is currently available on YouTube and Disney Plus. 

Chasing Coral 

This film examines the phenomenon of coral bleaching; the process by which coral becomes weakened and more susceptible to disease as a result of various stressors, including climate change. This documentary not only features stunning underwater cinematography but a grim and important message which will undoubtedly serve as a call to action for all those who want to preserve our planet’s beautiful underwater world. Check this film out on Netflix. 


Released in 2014, this landmark documentary explores the link between animal agriculture and climate change and will make you want to embrace a more plant-based diet. A must-watch for anyone interested in the environment, and for animal lovers in particular. Cowspiracy is available on Netflix. 


From the makers of Cowspiracy comes Seaspiracy, a documentary that takes a deep dive (excuse the pun) into the environmental impacts of fishing. While debates over plastic straws and single-use plastic have dominated conversations on marine conservation in recent years, Seaspiracy demonstrates that the risk posed by plastic straws is minute in comparison to the devastation wreaked by the fishing industry on marine life. Not for the faint of heart, this film will open your eyes to the destructive effects of fishing on marine ecosystems and the urgent issue of marine conservation. Seaspiracy is available on Netflix. 

The True Cost

Are you wondering what all the fuss about fast fashion is about? Then this documentary is for you. Not only will it give you an insight into the unscrupulous machinations of the fashion industry, The True Cost skilfully portrays the importance of ethical consumption to environmental protection but also to human rights. It may not make you swear off consumerism forever, but it will certainly make you rethink your spending habits. The True Cost is free to view on YouTube. 

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