Climate change facts and fallacy in “Years of Living Dangerously”

Climate change facts and fallacy in “Years of Living Dangerously”

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Years of Living Dangerously: Series image shows arid but not drought-stricken area. Darkened soil shows moisture from recent rains

SALEM, Ore., April 15, 2014 — Showtime premiered James Cameron’s “Years of Living Dangerously” on Sunday. The first episode of the big-budget documentary series about climate change is available for free on YouTube.

Almost everything said about climate change mixes fact with fiction, and this series is no exception. The first episode stars Harrison Ford, Don Cheadle and Pulitzer Prize winning New York Times reporter Thomas L. Friedman.

The list of Hollywood luminaries behind the series is long and distinguished. The opening credits list 25 executive producers and co-producers. They include Jerry Wientraub, James Cameron, Arnold Swartzwenegger, Daniel Assasi, Joel Bach, David Gelber and billionaire Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, among many others.

Episode one starts off like a scene from Top Gun with Harrison Ford flying in a fighter jet that collects greenhouse gas samples. It goes on to present three humanized climate change stories.

Harrison Ford investigates deforestation in Indonesia. Don Cheadle investigates the impact of a drought-closed meat packing plant in Plainview, Texas. Thomas L. Friedman slips into war-torn Syria to investigate whether  drought triggered its civil war.

Basic Facts

Climate change is real; the climate has been changing for billions of years. It’s not going to stop now. Global warming is also real. Human-generated CO2 is rising, and COis a greenhouse gas.

Have there been increases in the intensity and duration of drought? No. Nor have there been increases in intense tropical cyclone (hurricane) activity. Global land and sea temperatures have not risen in the last 15 years.

Those are all claims made by the IPCC in its newest AR5 report released last September.

Deforestation is a serious human-caused disaster. It contributes 20 percent of all atmospheric CO2 emissions, according to scientists interviewed in the first episode of the show. Losing giant swaths of tropical rain forest ecosystems in Indonesia and South America is threatening the extinction of vast numbers of plant and animal species.


IPCC Summary for Policymakers: Drought and hurricanes not yet affected by global warming
IPCC Summary for Policymakers: Drought and hurricanes not yet affected by global warming

The first episode’s two stories about drought attribute droughts to human-induced climate change. That directly contradicts the assessment of the IPCC in their new report.

The IPCC has “low confidence” that past and current droughts have resulted from human-caused global warming. Beyond that, the IPCC says climate change won’t affect drought or hurricanes until late this century. It does not support the claim that droughts last longer and are more intense today because of CO2 emissions.

Droughts have caused human hardship, triggered social unrest, and helped destroy civilizations. The demise of ancient Mesoamerican civilizations and the pueblo cultures of the southwestern United States are blamed on drought.

The Texas and Syria droughts were bad, but not extraordinary.

The “Dust Bowl” of the 1930s produced dust storms so big that dust clouds blew all the way to New York City. That drought triggered a mass westward migration of displaced tenant farmers immortalized in John Steinbeck’s epic novel, “The Grapes of Wrath”.

Fifty eight percent of all existing state record high temperatures in the United States were set in the 1930s and 1910s. The highest temperature ever recorded on earth is 134°F, set on July 10, 1913 in Death Valley, California.

Climate deniers

An unfortunate series of missteps stigmatizes fundamentalist Christians as ignorant climate deniers.

Texas Tech climate scientist Dr. Katharine Hayhoe, herself a Christian who converted her minister husband from climate naysayer to believer, is presented as a crusading scientist who goes around drought-stricken Texas converting the uninformed into enlightened believers.

A future segment called “The Preacher’s Daughter” in an upcoming episode will continue the negative stereotyping of Christians who oppose those who preach the gospel of climate change.


Cameron’s “Years of Living Dangerously” is engaging. It uses Hollywood-generated drama narrated by big name celebrities to document the human effects of extreme weather.

Harrison Ford’s segment on deforestation is eye-opening to anyone unfamiliar with what’s happening to earth’s rain forests.

Unfortunately, the other two segments on drought trade scientific accuracy for alarmist rhetoric. They humanize the effects of drought, but what they show us is no different from what’s been happened naturally throughout human history.

Cameron, contrary to IPCC findings, erroneously links both droughts to human-induced climate change.

It’s hard to decide which is worse: enlightened misinformation or ignorant misinformation.

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