Web exclusive: Catastrophic climate change


“Six Degrees Could Change the World”

Sunday, Feb. 10, 8 p.m.

National Geographic Channel

“Six Degrees Could Change the World” brought to mind an old Rodney Dangerfield joke: “From this point on,” he’d say, “if I take excellent care of myself, I’ll get very sick and die.”

OK, the environmental nightmares we face don’t HAVE to kill us. But this very good National Geographic Channel special shows that if we don’t stop climate change, global warming or whatever you want to call it, we’re in for famine, floods, hurricanes more severe than anything we’ve seen and much worse.

Alec Baldwin narrates these two hours, which show what is already happening because of climate change (bush fires in Australia, droughts in Amazon River tributaries, melting glaciers in Greenland) as well as what might happen if the Earth’s temperature goes up by one degree, two degrees and so on. We’re told that a change of one to 11 degrees Celsius could happen in the next century, and the nightmare scenarios become worse with each degree.

The findings presented here are based on environmental activist/journalist Mark Lynas’ book “Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet.” The tone throughout is tense and a bit frightening — though not nearly as scary as the possibilities — and the material is presented clearly, in an easy-to-understand manner.

In the book, Lynas writes, “Yes, the impacts presented are terrifying — but they are also, in the main, still avoidable.” The program takes that tack as well.

So what can we do to reverse this trend? Scientists interviewed here say global emissions have to peak by 2015 and begin to decline after that. We have to stop wasting energy (we waste more than we actually use) and become energy efficient. We need to cut auto emissions and look more seriously at clean coal, wind and solar power. And if all else fails, some scientists are working on a plan to put 1 million 3-foot mirrors into orbit to block the sun’s heat and lower the Earth’s temperature.

There are all kinds of jokes to be made about that idea, but this isn’t a laughing matter. Let’s just hope the next president agrees.