PBS Gets “Heat”

October 22, 2008 at 5:44 am | Posted in Climate and economy, Climate and politics, Climate solutions | 1 Comment
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This is so HOT. 

And I almost missed it.  But I took a minute to visit SolveClimate, an excellent blog about climate change, earlier tonight and found a notice about the new PBS documentary “HEAT” just in time to tune in. 

The full program, which was produced by the Frontline producer Martin Smith, is available to watch for free on the PBS Web site. 

“I have reported on the Cold War, the breakup of the Soviet Union, the rise of Al Qaeda, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan,” says Smith. “But nothing matches climate change in scope and severity.”

The report, split into four chapters, investigates how governments and major companies, such as Exxon Mobil and General Motors, are responding to the threat of climate change. 

It starts with a brief introduction about climate-change impacts that are already being witnessed, and then continues to China and India, where development is expected to send the world’s carbon dioxide emissions skyrocketing over the next few decades. 

And from there the central question has been posed: if developing countries currently plan on using coal and other fossil fuels to bring a higher living standard to their populations, what are developed countries doing to demonstrate another way?

To answer the question, Smith presses the auto and coal industries for information about their efforts to develop electric cars and “clean coal.”  Pairing the two industries was a wise journalistic choice. 

Besides the fact that cars and coal are the largest sources of CO2 emissions, by setting the two side-by-side Smith is also able to draw a comparison between the ways that cleaner technologies have been pursued by both industries.  At the same time, he is able to pull in how the United States government has contributed to these pursuits, or non-pursuits. 

What emerges is not a reassuring picture.

While the electric car actually made it to market, it was “killed” by the Big Three automakers, and the U.S. government failed to intervene.  And, though “clean coal” is dependent on the controversial process of storing CO2 below ground, the U.S. government has invested huge sums in its development. 

In fact, Smith gets David Ratcliffe, the CEO of the utility Southern Company, which is one of the world’s largest emitters, to admit:

“We haven’t even come close to defining what are the legal liabilities and what are the permitting requirements” for removing carbon from coal and sequestering it underground. 

Along with the full program, the Web site features individual interviews with many of the key players that weighed in during “Heat.”  T. Boone Pickens – the oil billionaire who has been much in the news as of late for his efforts to develop wind energy and snatch up water rights – is in the lineup.  New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Senators Joseph Lieberman and John Warner, and Jeffrey Sachs are also included, along with some 11 others. 

The Web site also provides information about how much venture capitalists are investing into various alternative energy sources (solar and biofuels are the big winners).  And there is a breakdown of the presidential candidates’ positions on climate change and energy policies.  

 

 

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  1. This site contains the fact that cars and coal are the largest sources of CO2 emissions, by setting the two side-by-side Smith is also able to draw a comparison between the ways that cleaner technologies have been pursued by both industries.


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