Climate change is the most important issue humanity has ever faced. If the world's political and economic leaders continue not to address climate change adequately, it will be the greatest political failure ever. Public will must be galvanized. Politicians and business leaders must have no choice. And that makes teaching the realities about climate change the most important task in the history of mass communication. On that front, there is good news.
As explained by John Abraham:
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.You can watch the entire first episode on YouTube, right here, above.
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.
Celebrity interviewers travel the world to talk with both experts on climate change and regular people whose lives have been effected by it. The science advisors are Joe Romm, the editor of Climate Progress, and Heidi Cullen, who worked at the National Center for Atmospheric Research and the Weather Channel, and is now lead correspondent at Climate Central. Romm himself ensures that the series has vigorous fact checking. The celebrity interviewers include Harrison Ford, Matt Damon, Jessica Alba, Don Cheadle, America Ferrera, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lesley Stahl, Mark Bittman, Ian Somerhalder, Olivia Munn and Michael C. Hall.
More below the fold.
In January, Romm made the announcement:
This April, Showtime will start airing its ground-breaking climate change TV series on the experiences and personal stories of people whose lives have been touched by climate change. Years Of Living Dangerously is an 8-part series produced by the legendary storytellers and film-makers James Cameron, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jerry Weintraub -– together with three former 60 Minutes producers who have 18 Emmys between them.To its great credit, Showtime is giving this series the prime time slot it deserves.
While reviewing the segments for technical accuracy as Chief Science Editor, I’ve been blown away by just how visually and narratively compelling the show is. It is not just going to be a landmark climate change series, it is going to be a landmark television series, like Ken Burns’ The Civil War.
Networks recognize these responses in viewers, and understand the message they are communicating to audiences by putting a show on Sunday. As David Nevins, the president of entertainment at Showtime and the architect of hits like “Homeland” and “Masters of Sex,” explained in an interview, “I am putting it on Sunday night because I want to signal to the audience: This show matters. This is a big show.”And that's why he chose Sunday for Years of Living Dangerously.
“It deserves the big platform,” Mr. Nevins said. “You’re not sending quite the same signal if you put it on Friday or Monday or Tuesday.”The response has been strong. This isn't just dry science. As Romm explains:
In addition, ThinkProgress has an exclusive video of a post-premiere panel, which includes Executive Producer Dan Abbasi, correspondent Tom Friedman, and me, Chief Science Advisor. Panel moderator Carol Browner, former EPA Administrator, said after watching Episode 1:The Weather Underground's Jeff Masters:
I’ve seen a hundreds shows on climate change and I’ve seen all the graphs and charts... But really in my experience, this is the first time it is about people.James Cameron himself said, “This is 100 percent a people story.”
The science is excellent, provided by climate science experts like Heidi Cullen, Michael Mann, Katharine Hayhoe, James Hansen, and Joe Romm. Dr. Romm promises: "This will blow you away. Nothing like this has ever been on TV. Indeed, this isn't just landmark climate TV. It is landmark TV, in terms of its storytelling and cinematography and the way it uses experts and celebrities. This is not a talking heads show. This is like 60 Minutes meets Homeland or Game of Thrones." After viewing the first episode, I have to agree—this is the most compelling documentary ever done on climate change.Even the persistently problematic New York Times science writer Andy Revkin lauds the first episode:
Early in 2011, two longtime 60 Minutes producers, David Gelber and Joel Bach, met with me to describe their ambitious plan to create a television series on global warming that, they hoped, would break through the enduring public apathy and haze of disinformation surrounding the subject. I wished them luck, while warning that the scale and complexity of the problem would make it hard to be both engaging and accurate.But:
It remains to be seen whether the series draws a substantial and sustained audience, but the Showtime team, at least in episode one, deserves plaudits for taking a compellingly fresh approach to showing the importance of climate hazards to human affairs, the role of greenhouse gases in raising the odds of some costly and dangerous outcomes and — perhaps most important — revealing the roots of the polarizing divisions in society over this issue.
And with such accomplished filmmakers at the helm, substance does not overwhelm style:
The first episode, which tries to propel the story by vaulting the viewer back and forth between Texas, Syria and Indonesia (call it the “Game of Thrones” effect), ends with a bit of a cliffhanger in Indonesia, when Ford, after viewing massive illegal deforestation in a supposedly protected national park, intones: “This is unbelievable... I can’t wait to see the Minister of Forestry, I can’t wait.”From a personal perspective, I was pleased to see my old friend Lafcadio Cortesi of the Rainforest Action Network (RAN) interviewed in the first 10 minutes of the episode. This comprehensive series apparently will cover a lot of ground, because deforestation is an often overlooked aspect of the climate crisis. As Lafcadio writes on the RAN website:
You must wait until episode two for that showdown.
We’re at a tipping point in our historic effort to end the devastating effects of Conflict Palm Oil on people and the planet, and this kind of primetime, star-studded exposure on the issue has the potential to become a catalyst for major change. But that can only happen if enough people share this gripping program with everyone they know.The complete episode one is at the top of this post. Episode two will air tonight, and 350.org suggests hosting or attending screening parties. If such a thing as "must-see" television exists, this is it.