April 4, 2014
A Texas Tech university climate scientist appears with Academy Award nominee Don Cheadle in a new nine-episode Showtime documentary series, Years of Living Dangerously, covering climate change and its effect on people around the globe.
Katharine Hayhoe, director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University, discusses her climate findings with Cheadle, who serves as a U.N. Ambassador for the United Nations Environment Programme, during the premier episode at 9 p.m. (CDT) April 13 on the Showtime cable network. (Episode streamed below.)
“I hope this program will show us how climate change isn’t just some far-off issue that only matters to our children’s children, the polar bears in the Arctic or to islanders in the South Seas,” Hayhoe said. “Climate change is already affecting our lives today right here in the places where we live. It’s changing the birds, bugs and plants we see in our backyards. It’s affecting where we grow our food and how much water we have, altering the shape of our coastlines and increasing the risks of many types of extreme weather.”
In the first episode, which focuses on the Texas drought and its impact on the people of Plainview, Hayhoe discusses how West Texans already cope with one of the most extreme climates in the United States, including flood, drought and other weather extremes.
However, she said, climate scientists are not witnessing the same patterns seen in the past. Climate is changing, and the risks of some of these extremes, including heavy rainfall, summer drought and heat waves, have increased. Hayhoe said that failing to account for climate change in our long-term planning will get everyone the wrong answer.
The current climate change problems faced by West Texans compelled the team to visit and spotlight the area, Cheadle said.
“What’s happening in West Texas shows us why we care about climate change,” he said. “It’s affecting the livelihoods of real people, today.”
According to the website, the documentary series explores the human impact of climate change. From the damage wrought by Hurricane Sandy to the upheaval caused by drought in the Middle East, “Years of Living Dangerously” combines the blockbuster storytelling styles of top Hollywood movie makers with the reporting expertise of Hollywood’s brightest stars and today’s most respected journalists.
Jacob Kornbluth, producer for the show, said he and his team came to West Texas because the Cargill Plant in Plainview closed, which he thought would make an interesting way to tell the larger story of the drought that was plaguing the American Southwest.
After visiting the area, he said, it became clear that even though people in West Texas were experiencing the drought on a personal level, virtually none of them were considering climate change as a potential cause for the drought. He and his team wanted to know why.
“As a respected climate scientist working at Texas Tech with firsthand knowledge of the area, Katharine was the perfect scientist to help answer our questions,” Kornbluth said. “As we got further into the story, we realized faith was a big factor for how the people we talked to saw the world. Katharine provided invaluable perspective on both the science and faith questions in the story.
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