The final episode of Frozen Planet — the popular new series from the creators of Planet Earth — addresses the impending threat of climate change on the Earth's poles. In the episode, which will air on BBC One on December 7th, narrator David Attenborough is expected to claim that the Arctic could be completely devoid of ice by 2020.
But in the US, the episode will not air, for fear of the reaction it might draw from America's climate change skeptics. In fact, as of mid-November, the BBC had sold the documentary series to over 30 foreign networks, and a third of them had opted out of the controversial final episode.
In a recent interview with the BBC, Attenborough weighed in about what he hopes people will take away from the Frozen Planet series:
Part of television is to reveal the world…the truth about the world, and both its beauties and its dangers and its splendors and we are understanding increasingly that these two regions of the world — which a tiny minority of the human race can get to — are actually going to have a great influence on our future, on the future of homo sapiens, if not the future of London. It's not beyond possibility that warming will actually cause sea level rises which could threaten central London.
In other words, it sounds as though what is perhaps the most salient episode of the series has been omitted from the American broadcast entirely.
Former Tory chancellor and climate change skeptic recently accused Attenborough of sensationalism over the state of the environment. "Sir David Attenborough is one of our finest journalists and a great expert on animal life," said Lawson. "Unfortunately, however, when it comes to global warming he seems to prefer sensation to objectivity."
Asked if there is a risk of coming off as too alarmist when talking about climate change, Attenborough replied:
I try not to, but I think the stakes are very high. The issue as to whether or not human beings are responsible for the increase in temperature, the change in climate, is actually irrelevant in my opinion. The fact is that we know these changes are happening and the evidence for that is incontrovertible; and as far as we can see ahead, if they go on, they will have catastrophic effects on the human race.
I, for one, am supremely disappointed at the prospect of the U.S. missing out on an entire episode of the critically acclaimed series, especially based on the worthless reasoning that "it's controversial." Controversy is good. Controversy begets conversation and progress. If Attenborough does come off as alarmist, allow people the opportunity to interpret that on their own, and others to respond to it in turn. I can't think of a worse way to handle the situation than to not air it at all.