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Climate change film blows up in Richard Curtis's face

When it comes to galvanising support for the fight against climate change, many methods have been tried, from switching out the lights in London skyscrapers to handing out free low-energy bulbs. Until now though, no one had thought of detonating two schoolchildren in front of their blood-smeared classmates.

A short film scripted by leading British comedy screenwriter Richard Curtis on behalf of the 10:10 environmental campaign has achieved the dubious distinction of becoming one of the more short-lived propaganda tools designed to help save humanity after it was withdrawn following complaints about its graphic scenes of exploding climate change refuseniks.

The four-minute video was taken down from the 10:10 website this weekend and plans to distribute it to cinemas were ripped up after members of the public and key backers of the campaign, including the charity ActionAid, said they were "appalled" by its portrayal of zealous greenhouse gas activists using a red button to blow up reluctant supporters, such as the actress Gillian Anderson and former footballer David Ginola.

Organisers of the film, called No Pressure, said Curtis, whose credits include Four Weddings and a Funeral and Blackadder, had tried to harness the blood-stained comedic spirit of Monty Python or South Park to bring the climate change agenda "back into the headlines". The writer himself said he had wanted to create something "unexpected".

The opening scene of the short, directed by a prominent advertising director, shows a teacher canvassing her pupils to take part in the 10:10 campaign, which encourages people to sign up to a 10 per cent reduction in their carbon emissions. When two children decline to show their support for the scheme, the teacher reaches for a red button and blows up the pair, covering their classmates in mock blood and flesh.

The film continues with similar scenarios in which three office workers, Ginola and finally Anderson, who is incredulous that her voice-over for the film is an insufficient contribution, are all rendered into red goo for their eco-recalcitrance.

ActionAid, which oversees 10:10's schools programme, said: "Our job is to encourage proactive decisions at class level to reduce carbon emissions. We think the 10:10 campaign is very important, but the moment this film was seen it was clear it was in appropriate."

Curtis, who has a long record of campaigning on poverty and was a founder of Comic Relief, has recently shown his readiness to branch out into viral marketing for the causes he supports. Earlier this year he teamed up with actor Bill Nighy to make a film promoting the idea of a "Robin Hood tax" on financial trades to raise billions to fund good causes.

The screenwriter admitted his latest foray into film-based activism may have backfired. "When you try to be funny on a serious subject, it's obviously risky. I hope people who don't like the little film will still think about the big issue and try to do something about it."

10:10 said: "With climate change becoming increasingly threatening, and decreasingly talked about in the media, we wanted to find a way to bring this critical issue back into the headlines whilst making people laugh. Many people found the resulting film extremely funny, but unfortunately some didn't and we sincerely apologise to anybody we have offended."

The organisation has nonetheless decided that it will make no effort "to censor or remove other versions currently in circulation on the internet".

Franny Armstrong, the director of The Age of Stupid film in which a future world looks back on the mistakes that allowed climate change to run rampant, founded 10:10 last year with the aim of getting individuals, businesses and other organisations to sign up to cutting their emissions by 10 per cent by the end of this year.