Chasing Ice (2012) - full transcript

'National Geographic' photographer James Balog was once a skeptic about climate change. But through his Extreme Ice Survey, he discovers undeniable evidence of our changing planet. In 'Chasing Ice,' we follow Balog across the Arctic as he deploys revolutionary time-lapse cameras designed for one purpose: to capture a multi-year record of the world's changing glaciers. Balog's hauntingly beautiful videos compress years into seconds and capture ancient mountains of ice in motion as they disappear at a breathtaking rate. Traveling with a young team of adventurers by helicopter, canoe and dog sled across three continents, Balog risks his career and his well-being in pursuit of the biggest story in human history. As the debate polarizes America and the intensity of natural disasters ramp up around the world, 'Chasing Ice' depicts a heroic photojournalist on a mission to gather evidence and deliver hope to our carbon-powered planet

It's hard not to be impressed
when you see entire houses

being swept away
by flood waters in the West...

Fires stretch
from one end of Texas to the other...

Tornadoes, a dozen tornadoes
have already been spotted...

Liberals will say, well if it's cold,
it's global warming,

if it's snowing it's global warming,
if it's hot it's global warming

There's nothing that doesn't prove
that there's global warming.

The latest estimates
for rebuilding from Irene,

already seven billion dollars.

2011 is now on track
to be the most expensive year ever

for weather related damage.

A drought of historic proportions
has hit Nepal.

The horror of raging wildfires
has again returned to Russia.

The say it was like nothing
they've ever seen before...

16 of the last 20 years
are the hottest on record.

- The science is not in.
- It is in!

- No!
- Stuart quit saying that.

- The debate is over.
- The debate is not over!

The globe ls actually cooling
and has been cooling since 2002.

The consensus
is that there is no consensus.

How do you not..?
Global warming is real.

You're about to self-implode.

The ice caps, the poles,
are not going to melt.

The oceans are not going
to flood the coast.

I promise you, 20 years from today,
I'll be the one that's laughing.

The worst that would happen

is I'd just get really wet
if I just stood in place.

No, you'd fall, you'd try to run,

you'd bang your knee
on a piece of ice,

and you'd bust your knee.

I just have to get this picture.

The first time I worked with James,

It was obvious how he goes
about things, you know?

Alright quickly.

'Cause this light won't last forever.

He pushes it,
he's looking for something.

- You do have rope in the car?
- Yeah.

Go back and get whatever you have.


Alright, I'm almost certain
to get wet, OK?

In fact, I think I'm so certain
to get wet, I'll take my boots off.

And it was very interesting because
it was his first real encounter at

looking at ice in that way.

He really did fall in love with it.

There's this limitless universe
of forms out there...

that is just surreal, other worldly.

Sculptural, architectural...

insanely, ridiculously beautiful.

And that's when I thought:
"OK, the story is in the ice."


I was about 25 or so, I guess...

And I was finishing my Master's degree
in Geomorphology and er...

I loved the science,

but I wasn't interested
in being a scientist.

The modern world of science
was all about

statistics and computer modelling
and that just wasn't me.

I had no contacts
in the photo world,

I had no knowledge
of the photo world but

youthful brashness can take you
a long way, make things happen.

So, that's how it worked.

I had this idea that the most
powerful issue of our time

was the interaction
of humans and nature.

One of the subjects I started
to look at involved people hunting.

But they were bloody, gory,
horrific pictures, hard to look at,

hard for me to look at even today.

And so, when I had this idea
to look at endangered wildlife,

I realized that I needed to show
these things in a more seductive fashion.

I had to look at it in ways that
would engage people, pull them in.

He's always taken the big view.

He's not looking
at this little microslice.

He's really looking at

what humanity is doing
from a very large perspective.

His books, they force you
to regard nature in a way

that you're not accustomed
to looking at them.

He's forcing you to think.
He's forcing me to think.

And that's what I love
about James' work.

You know, Ansel Adams was the father
of all landscape photography,

and he created
a movement around wilderness

that only images could do.

And now you have James
with that same kind of eye.

But being able to do more
with the technology.

It isn't just the drive to climb
mountains and hang off cliffs.

He has the ability to capture it
in a way and communicate it.

Observing it and knowing it
is one thing, sharing it,

and sharing it effectively
can change the world.

I did a couple years of research
on the climate change story,

trying to find what you could
photograph about climate change

that would make
interesting photographs.

And I eventually realized
that the only thing

that to me, sounded right, was ice.

He came with us
with a proposal to do

a profile of one glacier in Iceland.

We essentially countered him,

we said: "Well look, why don't
we just do a bigger story."

It was on the cover of the magazine...

Most popular, most well-read story
in the last five years.

As I was shooting that story,

I started to get the very strong sense

that this was a scouting mission
for something much bigger

and much longer-term
that was about to unfold.

The Solheim Glacier,
the Sunhouse Glacier in translation,

is where I really first got it.

That glacier had been receding
several hundred feet a year,

which is a lot.

You normally have a little
bit of advance in the winter time,

and little bit of retreat
in the summer time.

But when you see
huge amounts of change,

that's outside normal behaviour.

There was a real sense of the glacier
just coming to an end,

and like this old, decrepit man,

just, y'know falling
into the earth and dying.

It was very evocative, very emotional.

As a guy who's been mountaineering
for basically my whole adult life,

someone who's trained in the Earth
Sciences, I never imagined

that you could see features this big

disappearing in such
a short period of time.

But when I did, when I saw that,
I realized, my God,

there's a powerful piece of history
that's unfolding in these pictures

and I have to go back
to those same spots.

So, I set up a whole bunch of camera
positions around that glacier

where I would just go back
and shoot a single frame.

You know, one in April,
one in October,

and we would just see how
the glacier changed in six months.

Right there where Svav is,
stand right there.

That's exactly where the ice was.
Right there.

Right? Over.


That glacier had changed so much,

that, I'm not kidding,
for like three hours,

we stood there, looking at
the prints of six months ago,

looking at the glacier going,
"We must be wrong,

we can't be in the right places."

They appear to be from over there.

And when I saw those,
the lights went off for me,

I realized, the public doesn't want
to hear about more statistical studies,

more computer models,
more projections,

what they need is a, is a believable,
understandable piece of visual evidence,

something that grabs them
in the gut.

So I created this project

called the Extreme Ice Survey,
or EIS.

The initial goal was to put out
25 cameras for three years.

And they would shoot every hour
as long as it was daylight.

We would download the cameras
every so often,

and tum those individual frames
into video clips

that would show you
how the landscape was changing.

I thought that basically you could just

Buy all this time-lapse equipment

slam it together
and put it out there.

I was so naive about that.

There was a custom computer
that needed to be built,

and there were a thousand
little engineering details

that needed to be worked out
and a lot of trial and error,

because people hadn't built
this stuff before.

And it was clear to me
it would have to be a team effort.

I wasn't that into photography,
but I talked him into

letting me coming up here
and having a look at the system,

'cause I was curious

and I really wanted to do whatever
I could to get my foot in the door.

Svav is the field assistant in Iceland.

- You ready?
- As ready as I can be.

These are really attractive because
I think they're more picturesque,

and they're still big glaciers.

Jason had a deep,
deep well of experience

about Greenland's glaciers,
about Greenland's logistics

about what the glaciers were doing.

Tads a glaciologist,
he's the grandfather,

the godfather of the knowledge base
about those glaciers in Alaska.

The scope and the scale of EIS
is bigger than any other project

since I've known him.

They would work all day,

in our little, used to be our garage,
fumed into a workshop,

until sometimes 11,12 o'clock
at night.

James sent me a gear list
of things that I had never heard of.

I mean ice axes and crampons,

all this technical climbing gear
that I had never used before.

I remember thinking
that I never want to do ice-climbing

or ice related stuff,
it's dangerous, I'm gonna die...

But of course,
I still went with James to Iceland.

- Jeez!
- What?


I'm just saying Jesus Christ.

I'm just emphasizing
how bad the weather is.

Yeah, I don't need it.

I get it.

The essence of the camera systems
is based on

putting really delicate electronics
in the harshest conditions on the planet.

They have to withstand
hurricane force winds.

Negative 40° temperatures...

It's not the nicest environment
for technology to be sitting out.

Whatever the dangers of that boulder
are, that's a better spot than this is.

We found a place to hide
the camera, that's the good news.

The bad news is we've got
a major engineering project

to try and get that thing
anchored and supported.

This thing is loose.

Look how soft this stuff is.

Yeah it's gotta be...

this section right here.

The other way around.


This is fantastic.

Look at this.

It's exactly what we wanted.

Here we go...

The first eyeballs
on the glacier, finally.

Let's see what a couple years
brings to us.

We installed five cameras
in total on that trip.

After that,
we went on to Greenland.

When glaciers break these gigantic
icebergs off into the ocean,

it's called "calving"

Ever since glaciers
have entered the ocean,

hundreds of thousands of years ago,
ice has always calved off.

But what we're seeing now
is the Greenland ice sheet thinning out

and dumping ever more ice
and water into the ocean.

OK good, yup, right up here.

It's sort of like doing
a portrait of people.

You know, Richard Avadon
and Irving Penn spent...

their entire careers doing portraits
of faces essentially,

and found endless variation
and endless beauty

and endless magic in those faces
and for me,

that's the same thing
as what's going on here.

You know you feel the...

this tension between this huge,
enduring power of these glaciers,

and their fragility.

You know, they came from a great,
impassive place,

and now they're just, they're crumbling

into these tiny little blocks of ice
going off into the ocean.

It's crazy.

My first trip to Greenland,

we were setting up
one of the cameras at Store Glacier.

When we got there, we saw this really
bizarre-looking peninsula.

just kind of, perched out
at the front of this,

the calving face of the glacier,
where the glacier ends.

This thing is gonna break off
all summer long, man. Look at this.

Those peninsulas are...

are just a matter of days, at most,
a couple weeks.

It was huge. It was five football
fields long, 1,500 feet long.

And about 300 feet above
the surface of the water.

As we're setting up the cameras,

we also setup a video camera,
and had it pointed right there,

at that peninsula, and we just
had it rolling. Just in case.

Oh my God, a giant crack just formed!

See that whole island,
it's going away!

There it goes, man.

We were there for just
a one-hour period of time.

And, absurdly, somehow fortunately,
captured an event

that seldom is caught on film.

This is really big stuff,

happening right under our noses,
right now.

But I feel like time is clicking,
you know,

and we need to get
these cameras out here.

OK, onward.

The logistics of things
are just like, crazy.

It reminds you how far
he's willing to take an idea.

Heads up! Heads up!

Tight, tight, tight.

This is tonight's dinner,
I just found out.

Eight, seven, six, five...

This is the way to travel,
my friend!

We ended up installing about
a dozen cameras in Greenland,

five in Iceland, five in Alaska
and two in Montana.

Frankly, I can't believe that we
actually managed to pull this off.

You know, about 20 years ago, I was
a sceptic about climate change.

I thought it was based
on computer models,

I thought maybe
there was a lot of hyperbole

that was turning this
into an activist cause and...

But most importantly,
I didn't think that humans

were capable of changing
the basic physics and chemistry

of this entire huge planet.

It didn't seem probable,
it didn't seem possible.

And then I learned about the record
that's in the ice cores.

The history of ancient climate
that was embedded in those cores.

And the story
that the glaciers were telling.

The Greenland
and Antarctic ice sheets

are these giant domes of ice
that preserve climate records,

very much like tree rings.

Snow is added to the top,
turns into ice, and ice core scientists

can drill holes through
the ice sheets and pull out a core

and examine, not only the ice,
but also bubbles of ancient air,

that are trapped in the ice.

By looking at the chemistry of the ice,

we can learn about past temperature,
and by looking at the air,

we can actually measure
the carbon dioxide content.

One of the things we learn

is that past temperature
and carbon dioxide vary together.

They go up together,
they go down together.

And over the last 800,000 years or so,

atmospheric carbon dioxide was never
higher than about 280 parts per million.

Until we started adding
carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.

And now it's about
390 parts per million.

And that's about 40% higher

than it was when carbon dioxide was
only varying for natural reasons.

But now we're headed for
500 parts per million or more.

That pace is
a 100 to 1000 times greater

than the pace at which things have
changed by themselves, naturally.

The amazing thing to me is
that we're already seeing impacts

because the change already
has been so small, right?

It's been 0.8°C,

About 1.5° Fahrenheit,
since 1850 or so.

And yet we've seen so much stuff,
crazy stuff, going on already.

What counts to me more than
the notion of climate changing

is that the air is changing.

The air that we live in,
the air that sustains us,

the basic physics and chemistry
of that air is changing.

This is about the stuff
that you and I breathe.

And that effects everything in the
agriculture, in the water supply

in the biology of all the plants
and animals around us.

Plants and animals
are already going extinct.

They're going extinct
a hundred times faster now

than they did 1000 years ago.

And as the climate continues to warm,

we're going to lose more
and more and more species

because we're going to have
more surprises happening.

We're going to have
a mass extinction event

that could happen
within the next 200 to 300 years.

Mass extinction event means
that we lose ½, or maybe 3/4 of

the number of species
that we have on the planet.

Are we going to be losing
the plants that clean our water?

The plants that clean our air?

If there's no pollinators
out there to pollinate,

then we're going
to have to do it by hand.

And they're already doing that
in China...

having to go out and
pollinate their crops by hand.

In the last 20 years,

we've lost close to 20%
of the forest area

in Arizona and New Mexico.

And that's a high mortality
in those forest areas.

We have seen increasing
in the length of the fire season

by more than two months.

Larger fires in the Western
United States in the last 20 years and

we've seen hotter fires,
more extreme fires burning.

It's not just by chance that
I'm seeing many rare events happening

all in sequence, you know.

There's a reason for that.

We're seeing extraordinary changes
in our environment.

Munich RE is
the world's largest re-insurer,

re-insurance company
and our business model

is to provide insurance
for the insurance companies.

As Munich RE is a major reinsurer
for natural perils, natural catastrophes,

we need to know the risks
as best as we can.

We have discovered some trends
in the number and in the losses

natural perils have caused.

And interestingly,
for the weather related events,

our activities,
primarily greenhouse gas emissions,

are already contributing
to more intense and more events.

It cannot be explained
by just better reporting,

it has to be explained by
changes in the atmospheric conditions.

Imagine a baseball player on steroids

who steps up to the plate
and hits home run.

Can you attribute that home run
to his taking steroids?

Well steroids occur naturally
in very small amounts in your system,

but by adding just a little bit,

you can change
your background physical state

and increase your chances
for enhanced performance,

and that's exactly what happens
in the climate system.

Greenhouse gases occur
in very small amounts,

but by increasing that just a little bit,

you change the background state
of the system,

and make it much more susceptible
to increased extremes.

If you had an abscess in your tooth,

would you keep going
to dentist after dentist

until you found a dentist who said:

"Ahhh, don't worry about it.
Leave that rotten tooth in."

Or would you pull it out

because most of the other dentists
told you you had a problem?

That's sort of what we're doing
with Climate Change.

We'll be arguing about this
for centuries!

We're still arguing about
a minor thing called evolution,

a minor thing about whether
man actually walked on the moon.

We don't have time.

You look out that window at that sea water
with icebergs floating around in there,

and you realize,
we go in that, we'll have

5 minutes of physical function,
and in 10 minutes, we're dead.

(Pilot jargon in Icelandic)

He needs to do his adventures.

That's what makes him who he is.

That's who the man is, that's who
I love, that's who I married.

Do I wish sometimes

that it was closer and he would
come home at nine to five o'clock?

As a wife, yes.

As a human being,
it needs to continue, so...

He's on this never ending quest
for something.

He's just going and

hoping that something that he's doing
is taking him in the right direction,

and I think that EIS is it.

He's looking to make
a global, worldwide impact.

I've never seen him
so passionate about a project before.

Alright, this way.

It's my job to go out there every couple
of months to visit the cameras.

To go over if everything is OK.

There was always a possibility
that this would happen.

This whole piece must have
cracked off in one part.

It flew off into whoever knows where.

The rock obviously
did not read our warning.

It's only shot eight pictures
in the past 24 hours,

which is somewhat weird.

In fact it's very weird.

It could still shoot.

Come on, please. Please work.

It's dead.

It has to be dead.

So everything we're trying
is getting thwarted.

- Zebras.
- Again. Zebras again.

We've had numerous,
numerous timer failures.

We've had cameras buried
under 15 or 20 feet of snow.

We've had Plexiglas windows

We've had batteries
explode inside the camera boxes.

I think it's a bird
just pecking away at it.

This is what a fox does to your
cables when you're not looking.

He had spent a lot of money,
from grants, personal money,

getting to Alaska, getting to Greenland,
and when you go out there

you want it to work,
and when something doesn't work

you feel so far from anything
and anyone that can help you.

All of that obsession

means absolutely nothing if a little
electronic piece that big doesn't work.

If I don't have pictures,
I don't have anything.

You know, everything is a failure.

No, it's dead, it's not working.

Period, flat out, just dead.

It's dead.

God, after all this!
After all this, I just...

It makes me insane!

It makes me fucking insane!

It's hard to see
somebody that you love...

chase after something that...

might not ever happen.

See that white dot down there...

There's a white dot on the...

Something's happening
inside the timer.

After months of trouble-shooting,
we realized

that the core problem
was in the voltage regulator

and in this little computer timer,
this custom-made computer

that told the cameras when to fire.

We worked with these guys
at National Geographic,

and we sat down
and re-designed the controllers.

We switched to an entirely
different kind of a circuit

that used less power,

is a lot more reliable because it has
a simpler electronic circuitry inside it.

That was the turning point
for the whole system.

We had to replace all the old timers.

And had to wait for a whole season
to check on them again

and make sure that they were working.

We gotta be getting close.

We'll be able to see it
from up here.

Yeah .


Alright, this is the big one.

OK. Here goes. Playback.

March 11, 2008.

It just shot!

It's been working all winter!

Oh, man!


I can't believe that worked.

Do you know how cold
it's been out here, for how long?

I'm unbelievably surprised.

We have over 2,300 frames.

Since June?

Let me see this.

And everything's working.

It's been shooting the entire time.


Here's the memory of the camera
and this is, actually...

That's an interesting thought.
This is the memory of the landscape.

That landscape is gone.

It may never be seen again
in the history of civilization

and it's stored right here.

In 1984, the glacier was down there,

11 miles away.

And today, it's back here.
It receded 11 miles.

The glacier's retreating,

but it's also thinning
at the same time.

It's like air
being let out of a balloon.

You can see
what's called the "trim line".

It's the high water mark
of the glacier in 1984.

That vertical change is the height
of the Empire State Building.

You know, we're really in the midst
of geologic scale change.

You know, our brains are programmed
to think that geology

is something
that happened a long time ago,

or will happen
a long time in the future.

And we don't think that can happen

during these little years
that we each live on this planet.

But the reality is that it does,

that things can happen
very, very, very quickly.

We're living through one of those
moments of epochal geologic change,

right now.

And we humans are causing it.

Up and down
the edges of the ice sheet,

there's this zone
called the "melt zone".

This is where the sheet is melting

and that stored water from the
ice sheet is running out to sea.

I have to wrap my knees
for the day's festivities.

This knee has had
two surgeries on it already,

and it really could use a third.

It's like the surface of the moon.

Look at those holes!

Oh my gosh!

Look at this stuff! I had no idea
it was so thick in here.

This stuff, this cryoconite...

It's made from a combination
of natural dust

that blows in
from the deserts of central Asia,

mixed with little flakes of carbon,

fine particles of soot
that come from wildfires,

diesel exhaust
and coal-fired power plants.

And on top of it, there's algae
that grows out here

and all of that stuff accumulates
in these little holes,

and because it's black,
it absorbs the sun's heat

more than the surrounding ice does.

And all over
the surface of the ice sheet,

there's literally billions
of these little cryoconite holes

melting away and filling up with water.

And when you look down
on those holes,

you can actually see
these little bubbles of ancient air

being released as the ice sheet melts.


The part of Greenland that's melting,

is out on the edges of the ice sheet.

And that area is growing, and it's
moving higher up onto the ice sheet.

as the climate changes
in that part of the world.

You see all this water,

melting down through
these Swiss cheese holes,

you see it melting down
through the channels, it goes

from little channels
into big channels.

And eventually,
everything drops vertically,

down through
these big moulin caverns,

it goes down to the bottom of the
ice sheet and out to the ocean.


if you make climate a little warmer,
the glacier shrinks a little bit.

If you make climate a little colder,
the glacier grows a little bit.

And those two things,
kinda work to maintain a balance.

But if it gets too warm,
and the ice gets too thin,

it doesn't respond
just a little bit, the volume drops.

You cross that tipping point,
climate no longer matters.

It's irreversible,
it's just gonna keep going.

The sea level rise that will happen
in my daughters' lifetimes

will be somewhere between
1½ feet and 3 feet.


That doesn't sound like a lot
if you live up in the Rocky Mountains,

but if you live down in Chesapeake Bay,

along the Gulf Coast of the US,

in the Ganges flood plain,
that matters a lot.

It matters in China.
It matters in Indonesia.

A minimum of 150 million people
will be displaced,

that's like approximately
half the size of the US.

And all those people
are going to be flushed out

and have to move somewhere else.

It also intensifies the impact
of hurricanes and typhoons.

It means that there's a lot more
high water along the coast lines,

so when these big storms come,

it pushes that much more water
that much further inland.

That's where our story of Greenland
Climate Change is expressed,

it's in that melt water,
rushing out to the ocean.

That's what we're photographing,

that's what I've been up there,
trying to document.

And I've seen this thing
from your photos and sat pictures,

but to be here is incredible.

It's all becoming a little more real.

While we're heading over,

why don't I walk over there
and give you some scale?


Just be careful, don't get too close
to the edge, alright?

Stay up where it's flat.

This is really something.

This is terrifying.

This isn't a 10 foot
little hole in the ground,

it's 100 feet deep into an abyss.

And if you don't have that little dot
of a person for scale, then it's lost.

That is fabulous.

This is a reasonable route right here.

- Look at that.
- Oh yeah.

- That's like a gift.
- This is the danger spot.

- Yeah.
- For sure.

And then the other danger is that
the whole thing suddenly implodes

and the entire thing collapses,
but I don't think that's very likely.

This moulin
is one of thousands of moulins

all over the melt zone in Greenland.

Every day, the ice is cooking down,

and water is pouring
into the ice sheet, it's enormous.

You can't wrap your head around
how much water

is coming off of this place.

You got it.

No. Not at all.

It's all calculated risks,

it's not like we're just going out
there and playing Russian Roulette.

Piece of cake.

There's all sorts of curious, crinkling
and crunching effects in my knee.

It's not what the doctor ordered.


Look down!

- Look down?
- Look down!

It's just bottomless.

Oh, my God.

I do not want to go
any lower than this!

I'm going out here
on this broken fin, OK?

And I assume it won't collapse.

- OK!
- All done!

- Oh, thank God.
- Fantastic!

There were audible chunks
of gravel-like substances

that I could feel
rolling around in there.

Bionic man.

I was covering up the soreness

with anti-inflammatories
and pain killers

so that I could function
in the field and I would think,

"That's pretty good, not so bad."

But the drugs were masking the symptoms
way more than I had realized.

- Goodbye, dear.
- Bye.

- Love you.
- I love you too.

More and more people

are becoming increasingly sceptical
about the existence

of climate change.

The so-called climate scientist

are hoodwinking
the entire world community.

There is no consensus,
this is a myth.

The notion that man-made gases,
anthropogenic gases, CO2

cause global warming is probably
the greatest hoax ever perpetrated

on the American people.

All of this garbage science

has been a total fraud and a fake!

Jim was told after his surgery that
hiking is not a form of exercise

that they want him to pursue anymore.

I'm not sure
that's sunken in quite yet.

I think when we started out,

the glacier was approximately right here.

It might have been there,
it might have been here,

but it's in this zone somewhere.

Look, look at this.

In '05, you couldn't even
look into the canyon back there.

It was all filled up to that point.

And look how...

Look how low it is now.


And that's 2007.
That isn't even 2005!

In 2007, just two years ago,

you couldn't see any of
that mountain ridge over there.

The thing has deflated tremendously,

I don't know what the number of feet is,
but it's a lot.

If I hadn't seen it in the pictures,
I wouldn't believe it at all.

When I saw that glacier dying,
it was like, wow!

You know we...

If a glacier that's been here
for 30,000 or 100,000 years

is literally dying in front of my eyes,

you're very aware of the fact that...

You know, sometime you...

Sometime you go out over the horizon,
and you don't come back.

James is now doing exactly

what his doctors
said he shouldn't be doing.


Oh, man.

A little more...



There you go.

It feels worse this morning
than it has

any day since the surgery.

It felt better the three days after
the surgery than it feels right now.

I think that the best
that can be said about this...

is: "I'm a safety liability."

Well, you can maybe limp your way up,

but you can't go down that.

Unless you're in a wheelchair.

I mean, we need to go up there,

check on the camera,
and all of that, but...

But you don't necessarily
need to do it.

I mean that's, that's more of a climb
than we did in the past two days.

I have a hard time
letting ideas go, you know?

- Well here's another thing.
- That's why your knee's like this.


You guys should at least go
and look at one of the cameras,

get it downloaded,
get the computer changed today.

- Good?
- Yep.

Alright, enough.

See the route?

OK. Hold on.

See if you can get in there.

That's it!

Let's get out of here.

Every once in a while,

I get this thing
in the back of my head saying:

"What were you thinking?

"Maybe that office job wasn't so bad."


The sandwiches are better here.

After the sandwich,
I'm totally happy to be here.

This project is...

Now we're two years in.

We have hundreds of thousands
of images.

It feels like... he goes to
that point where he can't anymore

and sometimes you even feel
he's going even further.

He speaks about it, he says:

"So I'll just do a fourth knee surgery..."

Like, however many it takes
to keep him going.

Like most people say,

"I'm going to get knee surgery to fix me,
to make it better."

But for him, it's to make it better
so that he can keep on pushing it,

destroying it basically.

And then maybe he'll just
have to do it again.

OK Svav,
you ready for another exposure?

Do it exactly as you just did it, OK?

- You ready?
- OK, low beam...

- So as quick as I can, I cover it.
- That's right.

Way back, early in my career,
I discovered

that there was really something special
about photographing at night,

that places your mind
on the surface of a planet.

You're no longer just a human being
walking around in the regular world.

You're a human animal, striding
around on the surface of the planet

that's out in the middle of the galaxy.

We as a culture, we're forgetting

that we are
actually natural organisms

and that we have this very,
very deep connection

and contact with nature.

You can't divorce
civilization from nature.

We totally depend on it.

Shortly after that, he sent us
on this month long, massive trip,

to a place
that's really hard to get to,

to get a shot that's just...
It was such a shot in the dark.

The idea spawned
from this one glacier called Store.

That event was so spectacular,

we decided:
"OK, we got to go back,

"and go to the big glacier,
Ilulissat glacier,

"and sit, and wait."

We're going to try to catch
some big calving events.

You know, kilometre-wide pieces of ice

coming off
of this massive, massive glacier.

The Ilulissat Glacier ls like
the mother of all glaciers in Greenland.

It is the most productive glacier
in the Northern Hemisphere.

It's rumoured that this is the glacier

that put out the iceberg
that sank the Titanic.

It flows at 130 feet every day.

This is a really, really
huge field of ice,

and it's about five miles wide.

That is massive!

I totally lost him...

You see him still?

He's about to turn and go in front of
the peninsula that we think's going to go.

- I see him.
- He's at the base of it.

What's up?

My boots are frozen.

I'm really tired.

And nothing happens,
for days and days and days.

We called it "glacier watching".

Because literally,
it was just me and Adam

for three weeks,

watching ice.

Photography for me has been,
as much as anything,

about a raising of awareness.

Through that camera,
we become vehicles

to raise awareness
outside my own experience.

And in this case, we're the messengers.

He is a visionary,

and his works are like sacred objects.

I present James Balog.

Thank you so much.

Can we dim the house lights
a little bit more?

That's it, better. OK.

What I'm here to do tonight
is bring to you

tangible, visual evidence
of the immediacy

of climate change itself.

Glaciers matter

because they're the canary
in the global coal mine.

It's the place where you can see
climate change happening.

And without further ado, let me tell you
what we've been seeing out there.

This is a glacier
called the Solheim Glacier...

We're looking down on it.

Now we turn on our time lapse.

You can see the terminus retreating,
you can see this river being formed,

you can see it deflating.

You go back a couple years, in time.

That's where it started.

That's where it ended a few months ago.

Now down onto the side of the glacier,

looking across the terminus...

This is what we see.

Look at this.

You'll see deflation happening here
as the heat takes away

the surface of the glacier,
and the surface drops.

At the same time,
a stream is undercutting it

from a glacier that's melting faster
up valley, washing this thing away.

The vast majority of glaciers
in the world are retreating.

Glacier National Park Montana
will need a new name.

We'll be calling it
Glacierless National Park

by the middle of the century because
all the glaciers will be gone.

There's such a strange,
bizarre fascination

in seeing these things you don't
normally get to see come alive.

Look at
the Columbia Glacier in Alaska.

This is a view of what's
called the calving face.

This is what one of our cameras saw
over the course of a few months.

The action at Columbia is in part,

due to local glacier dynamics
and in part due to climate change.

Here's another time-lapse shot
of Columbia.

Everybody says:
"Don't they advance in the wintertime?"

No, it was retreating through the winter
because it's an unhealthy glacier.

We realized it was retreating so far,

we had to turn the camera upstream
to follow the retreat.

Then we had to pivot it again.

And then, when we went
back this past August,

it was so far out of frame, we had
to turn the camera one more time

so we could still see the glacier.

So that's where we started
3 years ago way out on the left,

that's where we were a few months
ago last time we were into Columbia.

We have to collapse it,
put rocks over it.

It's ripping too!
We gotta collapse it now.

James Balog is documenting the melting
of glaciers around the world.

The most visible manifestations
of climate change on the planet.

And he's making it possible
for scientists to watch too.

James Balog is founder and director
of the Extreme Ice Survey,

he's joining us now from Denver.

- James, thanks for being with us.
- My pleasure, thank you.

We'll also have more
of our special report

on a man who lets his pictures
do the talking...

As a photographer,
it's exciting to see this stuff,

but as a citizen of the world,
you go, "This is horrible."

And consider who NASA is sending

as a delegate to the climate change
summit in Copenhagen...

Jim Balog, a photographer
with the group Extreme Ice Survey...

Prior to '06, the glacier
had retreated 10, 11 miles.

And now we've added just
in the past few years,

another two and a half miles.

One of the things you often hear in
the debate about glacier change is that

there are glaciers around the world
which are also getting bigger and advancing,

so, how can that be?

How can that be a response
to a global warming signal?

What we've done recently
on the Yukon territory in Canada,

where we looked at the change
in glacier area from 1958 to 2008.

And what we found was that
the 1400 glaciers that were there in 1958,

four got bigger.

Over 300 disappeared completely and
almost all of the rest got smaller.

Yes, there is a component
of natural variability

in the climate change we observe, but

it's not enough
to explain the full signal.

So there has to be
a greenhouse gas element to it.

Up to the Ilulissat Glacier calving face,

a little helicopter is shown for scale.

The Atlantic Ocean
is on the left side of the frame,

covered with icebergs so thick,
that you could walk across the ocean...

I'm on the phone with Jim,
on one of our regular check-ins,

"Jim, just, nothing's happening."

Call him back!

OK. Bye.

- Still going?
- Yeah.

In that V-section right there...

Holy shit,
look at that big berg rolling!

- All four are running, right?
- Yeah.

Look at that!

Do you see how...
Look at the whole thing!

The calving face is 300
sometimes 400 feet tall.

Pieces of ice were shooting up out of
the ocean 600 feet and then falling.

The only way that
you can really try to put it into scale

with human reference
is if you imagine Manhattan.

All of a sudden, all of those buildings
just start to rumble and quake

and peel off and just fall over,
fall over and roll around.

This whole massive city

just breaking apart
in front of your eyes.

We're just observers.

These two little dots
on the side of the mountain.

We watched and recorded

the largest witnessed calving event
ever caught on tape.

So how big was this calving event
that we just looked at?

We'll resort to some illustrations
again to give you a sense of scale.

It's as if the entire lower tip
of Manhattan broke off

except that, the thickness,
the height of it,

is equivalent
to buildings that are 2½

or 3 times higher than they are.

That's a magical, miraculous,
horrible, scary thing.

I don't know that anybody's really
seen the miracle and horror of that.

It took a hundred years for it to
retreat 8 miles, from 1900 to 2000.

From 2000 to 2010,
it retreated 9 miles.

So in 10 years, it retreated more
than it had in the previous 100.

It's real.

The changes are happening,
they're very visible,

they're photographable,
they're measurable.

There's no significant scientific
dispute about that.

And the great irony
and tragedy of our time

is that a lot of the general public thinks
that science is still arguing about that.

Science is not arguing about that.

One of the really troubling things
about climate change

is that almost all of the world's
prestigious climatologists

are much more frightened
about all this than the public is.

People have a hard time understanding
when we talk about climate change.

What for me is so powerful and
actually unprecedented

in the work that he is doing,
is visualizing the change

that allows us to actually see
what was and what it's becoming.

I actually saw his work last spring,

and that changed my life
in the sense that

I had to quit what I was doing,
which was working for Shell,

and get involved in this debate
in a much more profound way.

The Extreme Ice Survey
will go down in history as...

This is the evidence
that we knew what was going on.

You can't deny it!

We don't have a problem with economics,
technology and public policy.

We have a problem of perception

because not enough people
really get it yet.

I believe we have
an opportunity right now.

We are nearly on the edge of a crisis,
but we still have an opportunity to face

the greatest challenge of our generation,
in fact, of our century.

Thank you.

When my daughters, Simone and Emily,
look at me 25 or 30 years from now,

and say: "What were you doing...

"when global warming was happening?

"And you guys knew
what was coming down the road."

I want to be able to say:

"Guys, I was doing everything
I knew how to do."

♪ Cold feet, don't fail me now ♪

♪ So much left to do ♪

♪ If I should run ten thousand miles home ♪

♪ Would you be there? ♪

♪ Just a taste of things to come ♪

♪ I still smile ♪

♪ But I don't want to die alone ♪

♪ But I don't want to die alone ♪

♪ Way before ♪

♪ My time ♪

♪ Keep calm and carry on ♪

♪ No worse for the wear ♪

♪ I don't want to die alone ♪

♪ I don't want to die alone ♪

♪ Way before ♪

♪ My time ♪

♪ Is it any wonder ♪

♪ All this empty air ♪

♪ I'm drowning in the laughter ♪

♪ Way before ♪

♪ My time has come. ♪