In Pokemon Sword and Shield, players explore the Galar region to battle and capture Pokemon, both new and old. Sometimes, they will run into Galarian versions of Pokemon they love. Game Freak used one specific change they made to an old Pokemon to represent the effect climate change has had on the world of Pokemon. This Pokemon is Corsola.
Corsola was introduced as a Water/Rock-type Pokemon in Pokemon Silver and Gold, but this coral Pokemon previously had no evolved form. In Pokemon Sword and Shield, Corsola has a Ghost-type regional variant for Galar. The Pokemon evolves into Cursola, who is both stronger and much more terrifying, at level 38.
Galarian Corsola and Cursola have a bleached coral look that is evocative of the effects of climate change on the coral of Earth. The Pokedex entry for Galarian Corsola notes that the Pokemon was wiped out by sudden climate change, which explains why it was turned into a ghost that sucks out with life force sucking abilities. Cursola looks like a strange mutation of Corsola, more than an actual evolution, but it's actually one of the more powerful ghost type Pokemon in Sword and Shield.
For those who may not be aware, bleached coral is a very real phenomenon caused by rising ocean temperatures as a result of overall climate change. Coral bleaching is often fatal, killing coral and damaging over 70% of the coral reefs worldwide. Some estimates say that up to half of the Great Barrier Reef was killed by coral bleaching. Coral bleaching is just one way rising ocean temperatures are killing off ecosystems in the natural world.
It shows that the developer is aware of climate change and its ramifications and are putting that in its game. It's not a call to action or even especially political, but it shows the team at Game Freak are taking a step many are not by acknowledging climate change as scientific fact. It's likely most Sword and Shield players will miss this reference, this is a game made for children after all, but it's impressive to see in one of the biggest game releases of 2019.
Pokemon Sword and Shield are both available now for Nintendo Switch.