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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Chasing Ice: James Balog sounding the alarm on Glacier retreat and global warming

A new documentary film on extreme ice loss from glaciers - one of the impacts of global warming - is doing the rounds. Chasing Ice documents the work of National Geographic photographer James Balog in documenting the massive changes to glaciers in the Arctic region where global warming is having a much higher impact than in the mid latutudes or the tropics. Film maker Jeff Orlowski follows Balog on expeditions to the glaciers and tells Balog's story of the rapid and profound changes happening to glaciers.

The film Chasing Ice is the result. In september 2012 it won the Best Documentary at the 22nd Annual Awards of the Environmental Media Association, Excellence in Cinematography Award: US Documentary at the Sundance Film festival and some 21 other awards.

I have been aware of the work of nature photographer James Balog for some years. This story starts in the spring of 2005, when, according to the synopsis, "environmental photographer James Balog headed to the Arctic on a tricky assignment for National Geographic: to capture images to help tell the story of the Earth’s changing climate. Even with a scientific upbringing, Balog had been a skeptic about climate change."

Back in September 2009 he presented a TED talk on Time-lapse proof of extreme ice loss done by his small team called the Extreme Ice Survey. As a photographer he sought to capture through time lapse photography the radical changes underway on a few of the galciers in Alaska, Greenland and Iceland caused by global warming.

The photography is stunning, and the implications of the landscape changes we see alerts us to the big changes climate change is bringing about on our earth. But before he embarked on the Extreme Ice Survey Balog admits he was somewhat skeptical of the impact of climate change. Seeing glaciers vanish at quite an astounding rate and documenting it through automated time lapse photography has brought the climate science to life.

Watch that 2009 TED talk: James Balog: Time-lapse proof of extreme ice loss

Since 2009 Greenland set a new melt record in 2010, and above average melting in 2011. In July 2012 the Greenland Ice Sheet experienced unprecedented surface melt. A scientific study published in May 2012 says that Global Warming threshold for Greenland Ice Sheet collapse reduced to 1.6 degrees C, just double the present amount of global warming we are already experiencing. Loss of the Greenland Ice Sheet would result in some 6 metres rise in global sea level. But destabilisation of Greenland and warming in the Southern Ocean may also trigger the collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS).

Amy Goodman of Democracy Now interviewed James Balog and Jeff Orlowski in November 15, 2012:

Near the end of the interview with Amy Goodman she asks:

Your work is so massive, so epic—and we just have a minute ago. Talk about how chasing ice, your actually chasing ice, has changed you.

JAMES BALOG: Yeah, I’ve - I’ve been profoundly reshaped in my own mind, in my own mentality and life experience, by this. I am really, really, really concerned for my daughters’ future. I have a 24-year-old daughter, and I have an 11-year-old daughter. And I’m quite concerned that the—that by the time they get to be our age, they’re going to be living in a world that’s so radically different from what we’re living in, and it might be not such a great world. I think they’re certain to be living in much more violent extremes of weather, with unknowable geopolitical consequences from that, from perhaps agriculture stress, drought stress, whatever. I’m very concerned about the stability and security and safety of the world that my kids will be in.

Can a film change a person from climate denier to one convinced that climate change is occurring with devastating results? You make your mind up This woman claims she was a Fox News/O'Reilly climate change denier who changed her worldview on climate change after seeing this film! The video was published on Nov 25, 2012 by justin kanew

Check out the Chasing Ice film website for screenings and other information including availability for private and group screenings from mid 2013.

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