Reprogramming Frozen Planet: Dodging the Climate Debate Hot Zone

Polar bears trudge across the ice in a scene from the BBC’s “Frozen Planet.”

by Fatemeh Shahkolahi

Climate change is a loaded term. If used at the wrong place or at the wrong time, it can spark long, heated debates. And it has. The climate change debate has successfully made its way into the political arena, as well as the Republican presidential debates.

As a Washington Post editorial noted, the debate on global warming remains detached from the scientific discussion. President Barack Obama hardly ever mentions climate change. GOP presidential candidates often dismiss the warnings of experts in favor of conspiracy-drenched denial.

According to, a blog dedicated to analyzing the politics of energy and the environment, Texas Governor Rick Perry declared the theory of climate change is a hoax concocted by data-manipulating scientists to keep research money coming in to their projects.

Similarly, one of the Republican front-runners, Herman Cain was critical of Democrats for agreeing with the “scientifically manufactured results” that support the science of climate change.

A recent ABC News blog post The Note said Newt Gingrich’s stance on climate change is a shaky one:

In 1989, Gingrich co-sponsored the Global Warming Prevention Act and in 2008 appeared with then-House speaker Nancy Pelosi to warn about global warming. Now he says he doesn’t know whether climate change is really occurring and called that ad ‘the dumbest single thing’ he’s done in recent years.

But the issue of climate change extends far beyond Republican presidential candidates. It takes us across the Atlantic Ocean to the United Kingdom, to the BBC’s newest wildlife documentary series, Frozen Planet.

The seven-part series has aired in the U.K. However, the series has been sold to more than 30 world TV networks as a package of only six episodes. These networks then have the option of buying the seventh episode, “On Thin Ice,” which explores the effect man is having on the natural world. Ten of the international networks that purchased the series, including the Discovery Channel in the United States, have dropped the climate change episode.

As reported by the British newspaper, The Telegraph, the BBC allowed networks to drop the climate change episode from its wildlife series Frozen Planet to help the show sell better abroad.

In the U.S., the series will be aired in early 2012 by the Discovery Channel. According to the network, the final episode has been dropped because of a “scheduling issue.”

But scheduling issues don’t eliminate the issue of climate change. In fact, at a recent congressional hearing, Richard Muller, a former global-warming skeptic at the University of California, Berkeley, told lawmakers that he has verified that the earth is warming after a two-year review of historical world temperature data, confirming the notion that climate change is a real issue.

Yet the debates on climate change endure and skeptics continue to question the legitimacy of the scientific research. And while the Discovery Channel has the opportunity to enlighten the American public on this issue through the missing episode, “On Thin Ice,” it has decided to remain silent.

(Editor’s Note: For those who are interested, the U.N.’s Climate Change Conference officially opened in Durban, South Africa on Nov. 28 and will run through Dec. 9.  The U.N. is providing various platforms for remote connection to the conference. This blog is linked to the OneClimate network’s initiatives to follow the conference in Durban; that coverage will begin tomorrow, Nov. 30.  To follow OneClimate’s video stream from the conference you may go here.  To participate in OneClimate’s live chatroom from the conference, you may go here.)

(The photo is © copyright Jason Roberts for the BBC; the photo is used here in accordance with Fair Use guidelines regarding promotional photos and commentary. To see a trailer for the BBC’s Frozen Planet, please check below.)

This entry was posted in BBC, Blogs, Documentaries,, Environmentalism, Television, United Kingdom, United States and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Reprogramming Frozen Planet: Dodging the Climate Debate Hot Zone

  1. Pingback: The BBC Sells Out to Public Relations | Sutradhar's Market

  2. Pingback: Cognitive Dissonance And Our World’s Leaders | History In Progress

  3. esanvaz says:

    I find it scary that channels that are supposed to be educational can pick and choose what they educate about based on political factors.

    I’m going to weigh in on Jeff’s comment, too. I think that accepting climate change means accepting that a lot of what we have been doing (as individuals, countries, workers, etc.) has been detrimental to the world and to ourselves. It implies a need to change lifestyles, corporate practices, even the law. I don’t think Republicans are very keen on such transformations.

  4. Fatemeh says:

    Jeff, you’re absolutely right. I think conservative presidential candidates have to play into the “line of best fit” in order to maintain support from other conservatives. What’s interesting, however, is that GOP candidate Jon Huntsman has acknowledged the existence of climate change rather than denying it like his counterparts. To be fair, he’s been criticized for this. Just look at how he was described in the Daily Beast’s article “Jon Huntsman Goes ‘Crazy'”

    “Whatever you want to call him, Huntsman is a minority in the field and an alien in the party—and headlines like Politico’s “Jon Huntsman winning the Vogue primary” don’t help. Among the major 2012 contenders, only Huntsman, Romney, and Newt Gingrich have said they respect the scientific consensus on climate change. By contrast, 53 percent of Republicans do not believe in global warming, according to a Pew Research Center poll late last year.”


  5. John Jeff says:

    I have struggled for years to understand why the climate debate is so polarizing (no pun intended) and I still haven’t come to a concrete conclusion. I don’t understand why political conservatives view climate change as a “MUST SAY NO” issue like they do (for the most part) with abortion, gay marriage, and immigration. I suppose its all just a component of satisfying what is believed to compose the “line of best fit” on either side of the aisle.

Comments are closed.