Sunday, October 30, 2016

Years of Living Dangerously Returns to Television Sunday

The National Geographic documentary series deals with the political realities of climate change that our presidential election has largely ignored.

NFL player Tom Brady and model Gisele Bundchen attend National Geographic's 'Years Of Living Dangerously' Season 2 World Premiere at American Museum of Natural History on September 21, 2016 in New York City (Credit: Click to Enlarge.
This year sees the implementation of the world’s first agreement to combat climate change.  An inadequate but major milestone, the Paris agreement was driven in part by President Barack Obama’s willingness to take some initial action to confront this looming threat to our planet.  Yet the topic of climate change hardly came up in this year’s presidential debates.

The Paris Agreement Is Set to Go Into Effect.  Will it Be Trumped?

Fortunately, voters — or at least those with access to the National Geographic Channel — will have the opportunity to see an in-depth, prime-time discussion of the issue when Years of Living Dangerously returns to television this weekend.  The series, which aired its Emmy Award-winning first season on Showtime in 2014, features celebrity hosts going where the Commission on Presidential Debates apparently feared to tread, exploring the steps we need to take to keep our planet’s climate in balance and the reasons why making progress has been so difficult so far.

Retired, voluminously bearded late-night host David Letterman is featured on the Season 2 premiere.  He journeys to India, where the country’s rapid expansion is evident in the nests of electrical wires that hang from buildings and telephone poles, part of a slipshod grid that causes daily power outages, even in some of the country’s largest cities.  Nearly 30 percent of the country’s electricity is lost before it reaches consumers.  Though solar holds huge potential for India — a potential that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has set ambitious goals to tap — the country’s government also remains committed to expanding its fleet of coal power plants.

Those coal-fired plants mean that some of India’s cities have the worst air quality in the world — worse even than China’s notoriously smoggy metropolises.  Indians in the capital city of New Delhi sweep the soot from their floors and window sills multiple times daily; residents of major Indian cities who check Google weather will often find that the day’s forecast is only “smoke.”  And, of course, these coal plants drive climate change.

Yet when Letterman interviews the country’s minister of power, coal, renewable energy and mines (yes, all one job) and Modi himself, both insist that the country must keep burning coal. And their reasons are compelling:  Some 300 million Indians still are unconnected to the electrical grid — that’s only slightly less than the total number of people living in America. Modi, the leader of the world’s largest democracy, insists — and has insisted since he was first elected — that India’s first priority must be development, and that development requires the country to exploit every energy source available.

Climate change is a pressing concern that poses a dire threat to India.  Heatwaves, sea level rise, flooding and drought will all hit India harder than many more developed countries in more temperate climates.  But as India moves through its industrial revolution, Modi wants the countries that went through their own revolutions a century ago, and are wealthier for it today, to do the heavy lifting in addressing the climate crisis.

Read more at Years of Living Dangerously Returns to Television Sunday

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