Thursday, January 13, 2011

Future Earth: Confronting the Consequences of Climate Change

ichannel Documentary premiere: FUTURE EARTH, Monday January 31 at 9 pm ET/PT

Could vast solar energy plants, installed across dry sunny expanses of North Africa, Texas and elsewhere help us to break our fatal dependency on fossil fuels?

Can human ingenuity outpace global warming? At the current rate of change, most climate scientists agree, the planet will be two degrees hotter in 50 years, and at least three degrees hotter by the end of this century. This 2009 documentary from the BBC takes an in-depth and often profoundly unsettling look at the implications of man-made global warming. How will our world change as the temperatures rise? And what scientific and technological advances will we use to deal with the potentially catastrophic impact?

Future Earth takes the viewer from the pine forests of British Columbia to the waters of California's Monterey Bay to bear witness to the ways in which climate change is altering the lives of both animal species and human communities, and to investigate some of the innovations that may offer hope in the midst of this growing crisis.

In New York, we meet scientists and engineers working on ways to protect Manhattan against devastating floods as ocean levels rise. In Iceland, we see how technological developments such as automobiles powered by hydrogen fuel cells are advancing the country’s effort to free itself from fossil fuel dependency. And in Arizona, we learn about a pair of research scientists who are developing “artificial trees” designed to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere – an advance that could hold the key to reversing climate change.

An increase of three degrees in the earth’s temperature between now and 2100 would render this planet all but unrecognizable. Future Earth weighs the potential consequences – from widespread extinction of animal species to vast wildfires that would reduce the Amazon rainforest to a dry savannah – and considers some of the more extreme measures that might become necessary if we cannot summon the will to curb greenhouse emissions soon. Could we reduce global temperatures by firing sulphur into the atmosphere to create an artificial sunscreen? Could we deploy mirrors in orbit to deflect sunlight away from earth?

“Geoengineering” concepts such as these have scarcely progressed beyond the drawing board. Yet without genuine and concerted worldwide effort on climate change in the next few years, they may represent our civilization’s only hope for long-term survival. The fight for earth’s future begins now.

** More Documentary Highlights: Week of Jan. 31 **

Can anti-aging cosmetics undo the ravages of time? Does it really matter what kind of conditioner you use on your hair? And what does a Nobel Prize-winning molecular discovery have to do with making a better wrinkle cream? In this eye-opening BBC documentary, British physician Lesley Regan casts a cold, scientific eye at the miraculous claims made by the manufacturers of beauty products. As Professor Regan discovers when she pays a visit to the cosmetics counter, there’s as much advanced technology poured into a jar of face cream as you’ll find in the cockpit of a modern fighter jet. But is there any valid research behind the beauty industry’s promises of a younger-looking you? Professor Regan subjects some of the most heavily marketed types of skin and hair products to rigorous scientific scrutiny – and what she discovers will make you think twice the next time you’re browsing in the beauty aisle.

In this companion to Professor Regan’s Beauty Parlour, British physician Lesley Regan shifts the focus of her scientific scrutiny from the cosmetics counter to the supermarket aisle. Are “superfoods” like goji berries or pomegranates really all that super? Do organic foods have any genuine health benefits? Will antibacterial cleansers actually protect you and your loved ones from marauding household germs? And what the heck are probiotics, anyway? This fascinating BBC documentary follows Professor Regan as she applies hard science to the most heavily hyped new health foods and household products, in an effort to find out whether there’s any truth to the miraculous claims they make on their labels. Will research show that they deliver on their promises and justify their hefty price tags? Or is their profitability the real miracle? Peter Capaldi (In the Loop, Torchwood: Children of Earth) narrates.

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