New Film Sees Global Warming, Degree by Degree

New Film Sees Global Warming, Degree by Degree

11 March 2008

published by The Jakarta Post

Global — Scientific facts on global warming are overwhelming — from assessment reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth, making it hard for the unbelievers to find a comfort zone.

The latest documentary, Six Degrees Could Change the World, will paint a real picture of IPCC’s 2001 landmark report, projecting average global surface temperatures will rise between one and six degrees Celsius by the end of this century.

The film will look at the history of similar events in our planet’s lifetime, as well as the science behind why these events will happen and the technological weapons people can wield to fight back.

The documentary, based on a book of the same title by environmentalist Mark Lynas, will illustrate the drama of each warming degree, what one to six degrees will mean to the planet — hard-hitting and revealing through cutting-edge graphics, from geological, weather, biological and human perspectives.

Through the film, viewers will be drawn into each degree, with the story of a comparable weather event that will illustrate what we’re in for.

Mark Lynas, who is the film’s narrator, said he sees the book and the film as the next step beyond Al Gore’s work on an Inconvenient Truth.

“That was about establishing that global warming is real and a major threat. Six Degrees accepts that at the start, and is instead about getting a better understanding of the implications of each degree rise in temperature, so that people can realize why it is so important to keep temperatures from rising above two degrees,” he told The Jakarta Post in an e-mail interview. He acknowledged certain groups are still trying to dismiss the threats of global warming, saying he finds it amazing they still deny this is happening.

“It’s like they live in a parallel universe, or are somehow impervious to rational debate,” he said. “The evidence on global warming is so overwhelming and the implications so serious, that we have to move on and ignore the denial lobby.”

Born in Fiji and growing up in Peru, Spain and the United Kingdom, Lynas helped turn into the world’s most accessed Internet portal for human rights and sustainable development issues after earning his degree in history and politics from the University of Edinburgh.

In 2000, he left to work full time on climate change as a broadcast and newspaper journalist, author and worldwide lecturer.

Lynas said he has been worried about global warming for a very long time, even doing a school project on the subject when he was 16 years old.

But with time, the scientific news has made him more convinced that global warming is the primary threat to humanity — above war, terrorism and all those other things.

“Unless we can keep the planet’s climate within habitable bounds, all else will be threatened too,” he said.

It took him about three years to complete the book, from conducting the research at Oxford University’s Radcliffe Science Library to putting the finishing touches on the manuscript. He trawled through tens of thousands of articles in dozens of different journals to bring together all the scenarios which are painted in the book, of what happens degree by degree as the planet warms.

His aim was simply to give people the insights which science has made available but which are too difficult for most people to access because they are buried in journals that only experts can really understand.

“So my task was to make this vital information popularly available. I was quite worried that some scientists might feel that the nuances of the their work had been lost, but in fact all the scientific reviews of the book have been very positive.”

The documentary, which will premiere on the National Geographic Channel on March 15, is based on the book but has a very different feel.

In Indonesia, the National Geographic Channel can be accessed by subscribers of cable providers like Indovision, Astro Indonesia, Telkomvision or First Media.

Six Degrees will illustrate what to expect from a warming planet, degree by degree. At one degree warmer, most coral reefs and many mountain glaciers will be lost, while a six degree rise will eliminate most life on earth, including much of humanity.

Lynas warned of likely human consequences — food shortages will send grain prices soaring, shrinking water supplies will trigger water wars and oceans will swallow up islands, leaving entire cultures homeless — caused by sea level rises, intensified storms and spreading drought zones. He said some people see the documentary as alarming because the images are so spectacular, of spreading desserts and rising seas.

“Actually, I think it errs on the conservative side … I don’t think it is alarming at all in terms of its portrayal of the science,” he said.

With the threat of global warming looming, Lynas believes time is running out but not gone, and that it is important to make people aware of the
issues since inaction is simply terrifying.

“Awareness is the first step to action. Politics is incredibly important. If there were a big popular movement in Indonesia to stop deforestation then it could have a real impact. People should not feel that there is nothing they can do.”

His venture into television aims to make people care if they do not already and to deliver the message to get informed and get active before it is too late.

“Television can reach huge audiences, though its effect is perhaps more transient than books. It works more at the emotional level than the rational one …. Seeing pictures of what could happen in the world in the future can be incredibly effective.”

What each degree warmer might bring:

  1. In a world warmer by just 1 degree, rising tides could submerge thousands of homes around the Bay of Bengal, hurricanes might begin      hitting the South Atlantic and severe droughts in western America could cause global grain and meat shortages.
  2. A rise in temperature of 2 degrees could severely impact the marine ecosystem, killing off a vast majority of the world’s tropical coral
     reefs. Stronger monsoons and flooding would cripple wheat and rice
     production, threatening countries with growing populations.
  3. The Amazon rainforest supplies 20 percent of the world’s oxygen and is home to half the world’s biodiversity. If global temperatures increase
     by 3 degrees, the Amazon could dry out from repeated cycles of drought and fire, causing the re-release of hundreds of megatons of stored
     carbon, further intensifying global warming.
  4. As global temperatures continue to rise, a 4 degree increase could cause the oceans to rise by more than one meter, devastating countries
     like Bangladesh and Egypt and completely submerging cities like Venice.
  5. If the earth should heat up by 5 degrees, more of the world’s once-temperate regions will become massive uninhabitable zones,
     displacing millions of climate refugees, increasing conflict over scarce resources, rapidly leading to political and economic crises.
  6. At a devastating 6 degree spike in global warming, the world’s densely populated cities could struggle to survive, as the landscape and
     climate is no longer able to support large human settlements. Oxygen  from the surrounding oceans would be stripped, wiping out marine life,
     with the decay further poisoning the oceans and coastal areas with the build-up of hydrogen sulfide gas.

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