Anyone who has dealt with an unpleasant or even life-threatening situation knows that the first step to coping with such a challenge is to learn the facts. If water is dripping into your living room when it rains, you have to find out where the leak is. If a chest X-ray reveals a spot on your lungs, you have to find out what that spot is.
The facts may be scary, but until you face them, you can’t plug the leak or treat the illness. The same is true for taking action on climate change, an urgent, life-threatening, life-changing phenomenon that impacts us all.
Showtime’s series, “Years of Living Dangerously,” aims to share the facts about climate change and then show the multitude of ways it touches our lives and the lives of every living thing on our planet.
Former California governor and actor Arnold Schwarzenegger takes viewers into the American West, where increasing temperatures and severe drought have resulted in more intense wildfires. As we watch an elite fire fighting team contain a towering wall of flaming timber, we learn the following facts:
- “Today’s fire season is two and a half months longer than it was just a few decades ago.”
- “On average, fires burn more than six times the amount of area today than they did between 1970-1986 and are four times as frequent.”
Viewers also learn that wildfires aren’t the only cause of deforestation. We see acres of evergreens turned yellow and orange — killed by bark beetles that thrive in a warming climate. Another fact:
- “Bark beetles have killed more trees than all fires combined in the last 10 years in the U.S. and Canada. Longer summers enable them to reproduce up to twice in a single summer.”
As we learned in episode one, every time a tree dies the carbon it stores is released into the atmosphere, which adds to the greenhouse gases that drive climate change.
And this, notes Diana Six, PhD., an expert on bark beetles, is a vicious cycle that makes everything worse.
“When you have something like 45 million acres of trees killed that affects just everything. It affects wildlife, it affects water, it affects fishing, agriculture, and of course all those dead trees are no longer going to be sequestering carbon. What they’re going to be doing is releasing carbon. So it’s almost like you get this feedback that you know it warms, the trees become stressed, the beetles do better, they kill a lot of trees, but then that releases more carbon, and that affects everybody.”
These facts may make you want to run and hide, but as President Obama said last summer,
“Sticking your head in the sand may make you feel safer, but it’s not going to protect you from the coming storm.”
Instead, stand tall, learn the facts, and then take action to protect us all.