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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

John Abraham: Years of Living Dangerously – a global warming blockbuster

This new Showtime climate change documentary is a nonfiction thriller you won't want to miss

by John Abraham, "Climate Consensus – The 97%," The Guardian, April 9, 2014

James Cameron with Deepsea Challenger submarine
James Cameron is one of the executive producers of "Years of Living Dangerously." Photograph: Handout/REUTERS
In full disclosure, I am jealous that I did not get a chance to work on this – perhaps the most important climate change multimedia communication endeavor in history.
Climate change really is a made-for-TV story. It has all the drama of Hollywood, with real-life villains and heroes thrown in. We scientists struggle everyday to communicate the importance of climate change to the world. It is great to see communication experts come in and accomplish what scientists alone cannot.
That's why I'm excited about the biggest climate science communication endeavor in history. Airing this spring in the US (Showtime), a cast of the world's best climate scientists team up with the world's best politicians and actors to tell the stories of real people from across the planet affected by climate change in "Years of Living Dangerously." The first episode is available here.
The brainchild of veterans from "60 Minutes" (Joel Bach and David Gelber), the series has very high standards of accuracy. Along with the blockbuster style of James Cameron, Jerry Weintraub, and Arnold Schwarzenegger, this endeavor is committed to combining great science with compelling story telling. Behind the scenes is best science team you could imagine, including Drs. Heidi Cullen, Joe Romm, Jim Hansen, Katharine Hayhoe, Michael Mann, Michael Oppenheimer… the list goes on and on.
The project consists of a series of separate stories on climate change, which unfold over nine episodes – often focusing on how a changing climate is affecting peoples' lives. One segment is entitled "Christie and the Storm" with correspondent Mark Bittman. This segment focuses on the impact of Superstorm Sandy, the rebuilding effort in New Jersey, and the intersection of politics and weather.
Don Cheadle takes the lead in the segment "Pray for Rain." He and Texan scientist Dr. Katharine Hayhoe look at the impacts of drought and heat in the United States in an episode that touches on everything from economics to climate to religion.
  Don Cheadle, Dr. Katharine Hayhoe, and Dr. Andrew Farley in Pray For Rain, courtesy of The Years Project/SHOWTIMEDon Cheadle, Dr. Katharine Hayhoe, and Dr. Andrew Farley in "Pray For Rain," courtesy of The Years Project/ SHOWTIME.
Arnold Schwarzenegger, one of my personal heroes on climate change for showing that the subject should not be a liberal or conservative issue, leads the "Fire Line" segment. He joins an elite team of wild-land firefighters as they battle infernos. He discovers a hidden secret that may be a bigger danger to national forests than fires.
Arnold Schwarzenegger and Randy Anderson in Fire-line, courtesy of The Years Project/SHOWTIMEArnold Schwarzenegger and Randy Anderson in Fire-line, courtesy of The Years Project/SHOWTIME
There are many more segments covering extreme heat waves and human health, methane and future energy supplies, ice in the arctic, coming political instability with climate change, future energy choices and others. Correspondents include Matt Damon, Harrison Ford, Thomas Friedman, Lesley Stahl, and a very long list of other concerned public figures. In total, 16 segments were produced with locations in the United States, Europe, Southeast Asia, South America, and the Middle East.
How was this effort pulled together? The producers wanted to ensure this series had a long reach. They decided to find well-known figures who were passionate about environmental issues, but were not necessarily experts. Rather, they wanted the correspondents to ask questions on behalf of the audience, questions that the viewers themselves might ask.
The production team was very selective about the composition of the team. The many famous correspondents did not just give cameos; they are truly committed to the project. The production team gave the space for the Hollywood stars to do something most of them had never done before – go into the field as correspondents and work directly with experts. This plan worked; the correspondents were enthusiastic about the chance to work on this series – many of them were already involved in their own efforts to deal with climate change and other environmental issues.
For instance, Matt Damon is Co-Founder of, Harrison Ford is a Conservation International Board Member, Don Cheadle is a UN Environmental Program Global Ambassador, and Ian Somerhalder is the Founder of his namesake organization to educate and engage youth on environmental issues. With commitment and talent like this, how can you go wrong?
David Gelber perhaps sums it up best,
"The goal of this YEARS OF LIVING DANGEROUSLY is to galvanize a national conversation on the realities of climate change and inspire people to share their own stories and empower them to get involved in solutions. We're also implementing an engagement campaign that will extend this effort beyond the broadcast to encourage our global leaders in politics, business and religion, as well as concerned citizens, to state where they stand on key climate issues and take action."
The show premiers Sunday, April 13th, at 10 p.m., on SHOWTIME, I think I'm going to get cable TV just for this.


mel strawn said...

Watched it 3 times. Good initial segment! Heavy on human impacts (real humans, real impacts....). Would like to see a summary of now understood global consequences, esp. positive feedbacks, emissions to temperature decades lag, urgency, habitat-species issues re 2 degreeC or more-and prognosticated timetable.

Mel Strawn, Colorado

Tenney Naumer said...

Yes, it was pretty good.

I think the other 8 episodes have already been filmed and edited.

8 more hours gives them time to cover a lot.