Last night we attended the preview of HEAT, a two-hour FRONTLINE investigation that will air Tuesday, October 21 EST on PBS. Produced by veteran FRONTLINE journalist Martin Smith, the investigation looks at what big business is and isn't doing, both in the United States and the other biggest polluting nations, to cut carbon emissions. It also explores the vast challenges that remain in developing a system to regulate those emissions and develop the technology to reduce them.
The documentary spends a fair amount of time laying out many of the basics of how we got ourselves into this climate change mess, which viewers who are already intimately familiar with the issue might find tiresome. On the other hand, with a crisis as serious as climate change, you probably can't be jarred into feeling afraid too many times; as one of climate experts in the the film says, putting the prospects of a dramatically warmer earth in no uncertain terms, "We are standing on the precipice of hell."Smith traveled to 12 countries on four continents to report the documentary, and it has solid international texture. Where the documentary shines is in the series of interviews with a number of big players in the global energy debate whose voices we don't often hear: Chinese car and Indian cement executives who exhibit little interest or willingness in cutting back on their massive CO2 emissions. Many of use are now familiar with the chilling statistic of the Chinese building two coal-fired plants per week. In HEAT, we get to visit those plants and hear the CEO of Shenhua Energy tell Smith that his shareholders can't accept the concept of climate change.
We also learn why US car companies like GM chose to invest in SUVs over hybrids and are now getting whupped by the Japanese in the market. The documentary delves into the murky world of "clean coal" and the US coal companies quaking in their boots with the prospect of an obsolete coal industry when renewables take off. In the end, HEAT leaves us feeling apprehensive and antsy, knowing what huge challenges lie ahead. But as a tool for education and enlightenment it does it's job. And one of the first steps toward transforming our energy system is to grasp what's really at stake.
Watch the preview here:
More on Climate Change Documentaries:
Chasing Glaciers: An Interactive Documentary
Leonardo DiCaprio's Latest Eco-project: Global Warming Documentary
BBC Documentary: Planet Earth
An Inconvenient Truth: Oscar Winner