Chasing Ice (2012) Script

ABC NEWS ANCHOR (VO): It's hard not to be impressed when you see entire houses being swept away by flood waters in the West CBS EARLY (VO): Fires stretch from one end of Texas to the other.

FEMALE REPORTER: Tornadoes-- a dozen tornadoes have already been spotted HANNITY: 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-- it's global warming.

VO-- MSNBC The latest estimates for rebuilding from Irene, already seven billion dollars.

FEMALE REPORTER: CBS 2011 is now on track to be the most expensive year ever for weather related damage.


A drought of historic proportions has hit Nepal.

MALE REPORTER: The horror of raging wildfires has again returned to Russia.

FEMALE REPORTER CHANNEL 5: The say it was like nothing they've ever seen before.

FEMALE REPORTER: 16 of the last 20 years are the hottest on record.

STUART MALE REPORTER: The science is not in ED BEGLEY JR: It is in STUART MALE REPORTER: No ED BEGLEY JR: Stuart quit saying that.

The debate is over.

STUART MALE REPORTER: No, the debate is not over MALE: The globe is actually cooling and has been cooling since 2002.

GLEN BECK: The consensus is that there is no consensus.

LEWIS BLACK: I mean how do you warming is real.

PIERS MORGAN: You're about to self implode here.

JOHN COLEMAN: 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.

JAMES BALOG: The worst that would happen is that I'd just get really wet if I just stood in place.


You fall, you try to run, you bang your knee on a piece of ice, and you bust your knee.

JAMES BALOG: Ah, I just-- I have to get this picture.

SVAV JONATANSSON: The first time I worked with James, It was obvious how he goes about things, you know?

JAMES BALOG: Alright quickly!

Cause this light won't last forever.

SVAV JONATANSSON: He pushes it-- he's looking for something.

JAMES BALOG: You do have rope in the car?


JAMES BALOG: Go back and get whatever you have.


JAMES BALOG: Alright, I'm, I'm almost certain to get wet, Okay?

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

SVAV JONATANSSON: 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.

JAMES BALOG: 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 though, okay, the story is in the ice.


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

And I was finishing my master's degree in Geomorphology.

And um, I loved the science, but I wasn't interested in being a scientist.

The modern world of science was all about statistics and computer modeling 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.

LOUIS PSIHOYOS: He's always taken the big view.

You know? He's not looking at this little micro slice.

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 em.

He's forcing you to think.

He's forcing me to think.

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

KITTY BOONE: 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.

DR. SYLIA EARLE: It's not 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, but sharing it and sharing it effectively can change the world.

JAMES BALOG: 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.

DENNIS DIMICK: He came with us with a proposal to do a profile of one glacier in Iceland.

We essentially countered to 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 wellread story in the last five years.

JAMES BALOG: 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, a little bit of retreat in the summer time; but when you see huge amounts of change, that's outside of normal behavior.

There was a real sense of the glacier just coming to an end; and like this old, decrepit man, just, you 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, uh, someone whose 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-- and 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.

JAMES BALOG: (VO): Right there where Svav is.

Right there.

That's exactly where the ice was.

Right there.

Right? Over.

JEFF ORLOWSKI: Uhh, correct, this is where...

JAMES BALOG: 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.

JAMES BALOG: And when I saw those, the lights when off for me, I realized, the public doesn't wanna hear about more statistical studies, more computer models, more projections-- what they need 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 twenty five cameras for three years.

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

We would download those cameras every so often and turn 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 off the shelf, slam it together and put it out there.

I was so naive about that.

Uh, 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.

ADAM LEWINTER: I wasn't that into photography, but I talked him into me coming up here and having a look.

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

JAMES BALOG: Svav is the field assistant in Iceland.

You ready?

SVAV JONATANSSON: As ready as I can be.

DR. JASON BOX: These are more attractive because I think they're more pictureeqse, and they're still big glaciers.

JAMES BALOG: Jason has a deep, deep well of experience about Greenland's glaciers, about Greenland logistics, about what the glaciers were doing.

Tad's a glaciologist he's really the grandfather, the Godfather the knowledge base about those glaciers in Alaska.

SUZANNE BALOG: 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, what used to be our garage, turned into a workshop-- until sometimes, 11, 12 o'clock at night.

JEFF ORLOWSKI: James sent me a gear list of things that I had never heard-- I mean Ice axes and crampons-- all of 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.



SVAV JONATANSSON: I'm just saying Jesus Christ.

SVAV JONATANSSON: I'm just emphasizing how bad the weather is.

JAMES BALOG: Yeah, I don't need it.

I get it.

JEFF ORLOWSKI: The essence of the camera systems is based on putting really delicate electronics in the harshest conditions on the planet.

ADAM LEWINTER: They have to withstand hurricane force winds.

JEFF ORLOWSKI: Negative 40 degree temperatures.

ADAM LEWINTER: It's not the nicest environment for technology to be sitting out in.

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

Well 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.

Uh... The other way around.

Rock! This is fantastic.

Look at this.

It's exactly what we wanted.

Okay.. Well, here we go.

The first eyeballs on the glacier-- finally.

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

JEFF ORLOWSKI: We installed five cameras in total on that trip.

After that, we went on to Greenland.

JAMES BALOG: When glaciers break these gigantic icebergs off into the ocean it's called calving c-a-l-v-i-n-g.

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 out ever more ice and water into the ocean.

Okay good.

Yep. Right up here.


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

You know, uh, Richard Avendan and Irving Penn spent their entire careers doing portraits of faces essential, 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 this tension between this huge, enduring power of these glaciers and their fragility.

You know, they came from a great, impassive place, and they're just, they're crumbling into these tiny little blocks of ice going off into the ocean.

It's crazy.

JEFF ORLOWSKI: My first trip to Greenland, We were setting up one of the cameras at Store Glacier.

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.

JAMES BALOG: 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.

JEFF ORLOWSKI: 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 set up a video camera, and had it pointed right there, at that peninsula, and we just had it rolling.

Just in case.

JASON BOX (VO): Oh my God, a giant crack just formed.

See that whole island, it's going away.

There it goes man.

JEFF ORLOWSKI: We were there for just a one hour period of time.

And, absurdly, somehow fortunately captured an event that seldom is caught on film.

JAMES BALOG: There is this really big stuff happening right under our noses, happening right now.

But I feel like time is clicking, you know.

And we need to get these cameras out here.

JAMES BALOG: Okay. Onward.

SVAV JONATANSSON: The logistics of things are just like, crazy.

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

JAMES BALOG: Heads up!

Heads up!

Tight, tight tight.

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


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 we actually managed to pull this off.

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

I thought is was based on computer models, I thought maybe there was a lot of hyperbole that was turning this into an activist cause.

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.

DR. TAD PFEFFER: 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 scientist 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 that 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 that 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 percent higher than it was when carbon dioxide was only varying for natural reasons.

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

DR. SYNTE PEACOCK: 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 .8 degrees C, about 1.5 degrees Farenheit since 1850 or so.

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

JAMES BALOG: What counts to me more than the notion of the 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 breath.

And that effects everything in the agriculture and the water supply of all the plants and animals around us.

DR. TERRY ROOT: Plants and animals are already going extinct.

They're going extinct a 100 times faster now than they did 1000 years ago.

And as the climate continues to warm, we're going to loose more and more, and more species because we're going to have more suppresses 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 loose half, or maybe three quarters of the number of species that we have on the planet.

Are we going to be loosing 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.

DR. THOMAS SWETNAM: In the last 20 years, we have lost, close to 20 percent of the forest area in Arizona-New Mexico.

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

We have seen an 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.

DR. PETER HOEPPE: Munich Re is the world's largest 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 contributing to more intense and more events.

It cannot be acclaimed by just better reporting, it has to be explained by changes in the atmospheric conditions.

DR. GERALD MEEHL: Imagine a base ball player on steroids who steps up to the plate and hits a 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 of those steroids, 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.

JAMES BALOG: If you had an abcess in your tooth, would you keep going to dentist after dentist until you found a dentist that said, ahhh, don't worry about it.

Leave that rotten tooth in.

Or would you pull it out because more 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.

HELICOPTER PILOT: We have low oil pressure in engine number two.

So I've shut down engine number two.

We cannot hover with one engine.

JAMES BALOG: You look out that window at that sea water with icebergs floating around in there and you realize if we go in that, we'll have five minutes of physical function and in 10 minutes we're dead.

DR. JASON BOX: The fire brigade will be on standby in case we need their help.


SUZANNE BALOG: He needs to do his adventures.

That's what makes him who he is.

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

Do I wish sometimes that it was closer and he would come home at five o'clock?

As a wife, yes.

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

SIMONE BALOG: 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.

SVAV JONATANSSON: Alright, this way.

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

To go over is everything is okay.

There was always a possibility that this would happen.

This just-- this whole piece must have cracked off in one part; flew off into whoever knows where.

The rock obviously did not read our warning.

JAMES BALOG: It's only shot eight pictures in the past 24 hours which is somewhat weird.

In fact it's very weird.

DR. JASON BOX: It-- It could still shoot.

JAMES BALOG: Come on, please.

Please work.

It's dead.

It has to be dead.

JASON BOX: Okay, so...

JAMES BALOG: Everything we're trying is getting thwarted.

ADAM LEWINTER: Again. Zebras again.


JEFF ORLOWSKI: We've had numerous, numerous timer failures.

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


Oh my.

JEFF ORLOWSKI: We've had Plexiglas windows sand blasted.

We've had batteries explode inside the camera boxes.

ADAM LEWINTER: I think it's a bird just kind of pecking away at it.

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

ADAM LEWINTER: He had spent a lot of many-- 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.

JAMES BALOG: I think It's in that voltage regulator.

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, it just it makes me insane!

It makes me fucking insane!

It's so disappointing.

SIMONE BALOG: It's hard to see somebody that you love chase after something that... might not ever happen.

JAMES BALOG: 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.

ADAM LEWINTER: We worked with these guys at National Geographic, and we sat down and re-designed the controllers.

JAMES BALOG: We switched to an entirely different kind of a circuit that used less power and is a lot more reliable because it has a simpler electronic circuitry inside it.

ADAM LEWINTER: That was the turning point for the whole system.

JAMES BALOG: We had to replace all the old timers.

And had to wait for a whole season to check on them again and make sure they were working.

ADAM LEWINTER: We gotta be getting close.


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



Alright. This is the big one; Okay.

Here it goes.



11, 2008. It just shot!

It's been working all winter!

Ahhh man. Hello!

I can't believe that worked.

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

ADAM LEWINTER: I'm unbelievably surprised.

ADAM LEWINTER (CONT'D): We have over 2,300 frames.

JAMES BALOG: Since June?

Let me see.

ADAM LEWINTER: And everything's working.

JAMES BALOG: 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 the 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 programed to think that geology is something that happened a long time ago or it 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.

JAMES BALOG: 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 at those holes, what you can actually see is 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, from little channels into big channels.

And eventually, everything drops vertically, down through these big Moulin caverns.

Goes down to the bottom of the ice sheet and out into the ocean.

DR. TAD PFEFFER: Ordinarily, if you make climate a little warmer, the glacier shrinks a little bit.

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

And those two things kind of work to maintain balance.

But if it gets too warm, and the ice gets too thin, it doesn't just 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.

JAMES BALOG: The sea level rise that will happen in my daughter's lifetimes, will be somewhere between a foot in a half and a half and three feet.

Minimum. That doesn't sound like a lot if you live in the Rocky Mountains, but if you live down in Chesapeake Bay, along the Gulf Coast of the United States, in the Ganges flood plane 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 United States.

And all of 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.

ADAM LEWINTER: You know, I've seen this thing from your photos and sat pictures, but to be here, it's incredible.

It's all becoming a little more real.

While we're heading over, why don't I walk over 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.

ADAM LEWINTER: This is terrifying.

: This isn't a 10 foot little hole in the ground, it's 100 feet deep into an abyss.

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

JAMES BALOG: That is fabulous.

This is a reasonable route right here.

Look at that.


JAMES BALOG: That's like a gift.

ADAM LEWINTER: This is the danger spot.



JAMES BALOG: Well, and the other danger is that the whole thing suddenly implodes and the entire thing collapses, but I don't think that's very likely.

ADAM LEWINTER: This moulin is one of thousands of moulins all over the melt zone in Greenland and everyday, 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 this place.


JEFF ORLOWSKI: Adam, have you ever done something like this before?

ADAM LEWINTER: No. Not at all.

ADAM LEWINTER: It's all calculated risks.

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

JAMES BALOG: Piece o'cake.

Ohhh, there's all sorts of curios crinkling and crunching effects in my knee.

Just not what the doctor ordered.

Alright. Look down!


JAMES BALOG: Look! Down!

ADAM LEWINTER: It's just bottomless...

Oh my God.

I do not want to go any lower than this.

JAMES BALOG: I'm going out here on this broken fin.

Okay? And I don't, I assume it won't collapse.


All done!

ADAM LEWINTER: Oh thank God!

JAMES BALOG: Fantastic!

There were audible chunks of gravel like substances that I could feel rolling around in there.

The 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, ah, that's pretty good-- not so bad.

Not realizing that the drugs were masking the symptoms way more than I had realized.


I love you.

SUZANNE BALOG: I love you too.

FEMALE NEWSCASTER: More and more people are becoming increasingly skeptical about the existence of climate change.

HANNITY: These so called climate scientists are hoodwinking the entire world community.

BRIAN SUSSMAN: There is no consensus, this is a myth.

SENATOR INHOFE: The notion that man made gas, this anthropogenic gas, this C02 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!

SUZANNE BALOG: 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.

JAMES BALOG: I think, when we started out, the glacier was approximately right here.

It might of been there, it might of 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, look, it was all filled up to that point.

And look how, look how low it is now.

JAMES BALOG: Beautiful.

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 mean, 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.

JAMES BALOG: When I saw that glacier dying, it was like, wow.

You know we, uh...

If a glacier that's been here for 30,000 years, or 100,000 years is literally dying in front of my eyes, you're very aware of the fact that...

You know, sometime you um... sometime you go out over the horizon and you don't come back.

JEFF ORLOWSKI: James is now doing exactly what his doctors said he shouldn't be doing.



ADAM LEWINTER: A little more...


Yes...there you go.

JAMES BALOG: 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, ah I'm a safety liability.

ADAM LEWINTER: Well, you can maybe limp your way up, but... you can't go down that.

SVAV JONATANSSON: Unless you're in a wheelchair.

ADAM LEWINTER: 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 more of a climb than we did in the past two days.

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

SVAR JONATANSSON: Well here's another thing.

ADAM LEWINTER: That's why your knee's like this.


I'm inclined to think that you guys should at least go and look at one of the cameras get it downloaded, get the computer changed today.




ADAM LEWINTER: See the route?


Hold on. See if you can get in there.

That's it!

Let's get out of here.

ADAM LEWINTER (CONT'D): 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.


SVAV JONATANSSON: The sandwiches are better here.

ADAM LEWINTER: The after the sandwich, I'm totally happy to be here.

This project is... now we're two years in.

We have like, hundreds of thousands of images.

SVAV JONATANSSON: It feels like, yeah, he goes to that point where he can't anymore and sometimes you even feel he's going even further.

Yeah and he speaks about it, he says, well, so I'll just do a fourth knee surgery, you know?

Like, however many it takes to keep him going.

Like most people say, I'm going to get knee surgery to fix me, kind of, you know?

It's to make it better.

But for him, it's to make it better so he can keep on pushing it, destroying it, basically, and then maybe he'll just have to do it again.

JAMES BALOG: Okay Svav, you ready for another exposure?

Do it exactly as you just did it, okay?

You ready?

SVAV JONATANSSON: So as quick as I can, I, I cover it.

JAMES BALOG: That's right.

JAMES BALOG (CONT'D): 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 are 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, and contact with nature.

You can't divorce civilization from nature.

We totally depend on it.

ADAM LEWINTER: 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 is just-- it was such a shot in the dark.

The idea sprung from this one glacier called Store.

That event was so spectacular, we decided, okay 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... some big calving events.

You know, kilometer wide pieces of ice coming of this massive, massive, glacier.

JEFF ORLOWSKI: The Ilulissat glacier in Greenland is kind of-- like the mother of all glaciers.

It is the most productive glacier in the Norther Hemisphere.

It's rumored 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 fjord of ice, and it's about five miles wide.

ADAM LEWINTER: That is massive.

JEFF ORLOWSKI: I totally lost him.

You see him still?

ADAM LEWINTER: He's going-- he's, he's about to turn on go in front of the peninsula that we think's going to go.

JEFF ORLOWSKI: Oh, I see him.

ADAM LEWINTER: He's at the base of it.


ADAM LEWINTER: My boots are frozen.

And I'm really tired.

And nothing happens.

For days and days and days.

We called it glacier watching.

JEFF ORLOWSKI: Because literally, it was just, me and Adam, for three weeks, watching ice.

JAMES BALOG: Photography for me has been-- as much as anything-- about a raising of awareness.

Through that camera, you know, we become vehicles to raise awareness outside my own experience.

And in this case, we're the messengers.

PRESENTOR: He is a visionary, and his works are like sacred objects.

I present James Balog.

JAMES BALOG: Thank you so much.

Can we dim the house lights a little bit more?

That's it, better.

Okay. 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 adieu, 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 heat takes away the surface of the glacier, 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 glacier-less 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.

We're up at the Columbia glacier in Alaska, this is a view of what's called a calving face.

This is what one of our cameras saw over a 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-laps shot of Columbia.

And everybody says well 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 up stream 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 that we could still see the glacier.

So that's where we started three years ago way out on the left, that's where we were a few months ago last time we were into Columbia.

ADAM LEWINTER: We're going to have to collapse it --- put rocks over it.

It's ripping too.

We got to collapse it now.

FEMALE REPORTER (VO): 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.

CNN FEMALE REPORTER (VO): James Balog is founder and director of the Extreme Ice Survey he's joining us now from Denver, James, thanks for being with us.

JAMES BALOG: My pleasure, thank you.

BRIAN WILLIAMS We'll also have more on our special report on a man who lets his pictures do the talking JAMES BALOG: As a photographer, it's exciting to see this stuff, but as a citizen of the world, you go, this is horrible.

MALE REPORTER (VO): 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.

JAMES BALOG: Prior to '06--

This glacier had retreated 10, 11 miles.

And, now we've added just in the past few years, another two and a half miles.

DR. MARTIN SHARP: 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, of the 1,400 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.

JAMES BALOG: 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...

ADAM LEWINTER: I'm on the phone with Jim, on one of our regular check-ins, Jim, just, nothing's happening.


Uh... it's going well.

We had some serious bouts of wind.

But other than that, things are fairly well set up here.

We've got some continuous time lapse going.

JEFF ORLOWSKI: It's starting Adam, I think.

Adam it's starting.

ADAM LEWINTER: Oh wait, Jim, Jim...

The big piece is starting to calve.

Let me call you back.

JEFF ORLOWSKI: Call him back.


JAMES BALOG: Is it still going?


In that V-section right there.

Holy shit, look at that big berg rolling.

All four are running, right?

ADAM LEWINTER: Yeah... Look at that!

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


The calving face was 300 sometimes 400 feet tall.

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

The only way you can try to put it into scale with human reference is if you imagine Manhattan.

All the sudden, all 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 and we watched and recorded the largest, witnessed calving event ever caught on tape.

JAMES BALOG: 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 two and a half or three 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 eight miles from 1900 to 2000.

From 2000 to 2010, it retreated nine 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.

JAMES WOOLSEY: One of the really troubling things about climate change is that almost all of the world's prestigious climatologist are much more frightened about all this than the public is.

DENNIS DIMICK: 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 is become.

RICHARD WARD: I actually saw his work last spring and that kind of 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.

LOUIS PSIHOYOS: 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!

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

We have a problem with perception.

Because not enough people really get it yet.

I believe we really 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, and 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, when... global warming was happening and you guys knew what was coming down the road.

I want to be able to say, guys,