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Jack Bauer tackles global warming

Fox’s action-packed series ‘24’ is the first TV show to reach carbon neutral.

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One of the most egregious areas, adds Posey with a laugh, was the proliferation of water bottles on sets. “It’s gotten totally out of control,” he says.

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Not every aspect of a vast, sprawling Hollywood set can be easily switched to more ecofriendly technology. While he is working on it, Posey points out that the low-impact LED lights favored by environmentalists do not always produce the “density of light that our sets require.”

While such efforts reduced measurable emissions by nearly half, producers turned to carbon offsets to get to a zero-sum equation. These are a portfolio of local and international renewable-energy investments, such as wind and solar farms in the greater Los Angeles area and others in India. And while some shows might be amenable to actually inserting ecofriendly story lines into the narratives, “24” producers point out that their show is not suitable for this tactic. Instead, they have purchased public service announcements, delivered by the show’s stars, such as Kiefer Sutherland and Cherry Jones, during the show’s prime-time slot. In a recent episode, for example, Ms. Jones, who portrays US President Allison Taylor, came on the air at the hour’s midpoint to address the audience about the need to tackle global warming.

Everyone from environmentalists to scientists and media watchdog groups applauds Fox’s long-term commitment to reducing its carbon emissions, but some suggest the hyperbole around the recent “zero-sum” announcement doesn’t help the message. Since absolute carbon neutrality is impossible, points out Allen Hershkowitz, senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council, “we ought to be talking about reductions, not carbon neutrality.” This muddies the waters, he says, because it opens the doors to quibbling over such immeasurables as the impact of forestry practices worldwide.

“Carbon neutrality isn’t usually the place to start a discussion,” says Taylor Grant of the Environmental Media Association, a nonprofit consulting group that works with the entertainment industry on green issues. “In the long run, it’s more useful to talk about the things that people can relate to, such as eliminating water bottles from a set.”

Nonetheless, as animator and industry consultant Jeff Hayes says, Hollywood knows how to tell a story and this is the message of the moment.

“We actually expected more resistance from our crews,” says executive producer Mr. Gordon. After all, as he points out, “a lot of our guys are not granola-crunching ecotypes.”

But after News Corp. “incentivized” its employees with discounts and mileage reimbursements, hybrid cars began to be the norm in the parking lots.

“It’s great to see these teamsters driving around in Priuses,” Gordon says.