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Entertainment 'Breaking Boundaries' Might Actually Be Too Optimistic About Climate Change

02:50  05 june  2021
02:50  05 june  2021 Source:   thewrap.com

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Breaking Boundaries is unusual among his considerable output for featuring little of Attenborough, and even of animals. Instead, its focus is squarely on the science of our planetary decline, setting out in unflinching detail the extent of Earth’s degradation – and the catastrophic consequences of anything but drastic action. This “planetary boundaries framework” serves as the structure of the film. With support from Attenborough’s voiceover and a global assembly of experts, Rockström details the impact of anthropogenic change on the nine processes, and where we stand in relation to the “irreversible

We have a lot more than just climate change to worry about, argues this nature doc narrated by Sir David Attenborough. Narrated by Sir David Attenborough, the perennial voice of the British nature doc, “ Breaking Boundaries ” is brimming with grim scientific insight and urgent cautionary pronouncements, but its style feels fussy and belabored — as if the end of the world were not dramatic enough. It’s hard to concentrate on land composition and vanishing biodiversity amid the barrage of bizarre visual effects and histrionic music.

The first 45 minutes or so of the new Netflix documentary "Breaking Boundaries: The Science of Our Planet" are insanely depressing. The film, like the book by Johan Rockstrom on which it's based, provides a detailed breakdown of where we are with the climate crisis — and it's no fun whatsoever.

a man standing in front of a body of water: breaking boundaries johan strockman © TheWrap breaking boundaries johan strockman

That's not a criticism of the film. Rather, it's just not all that enjoyable to have to face the grim future we all face if we don't collectively get it together. And, well, things seem pretty dire.

But "Breaking Boundaries" tries to provide somewhat of a light at the end of the terrifying tunnel in the last half-hour, as Rockstrom and Attenborough run us through the things humanity must do if we don't want to have to live in a world that, as Rockstrom describes it, cannot support the level of civilization we currently enjoy.

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Humans have caused major climate changes to happen already, and we have set in motion more changes still. Even if we stopped emitting greenhouse gases today, global warming would continue to happen for at least several more decades, if not centuries. That’s because it takes a while for the planet (for example, the oceans) to respond, and because carbon dioxide – the predominant heat-trapping gas – lingers in the atmosphere for hundreds of years. But it may not be too late to avoid or limit some of the worst effects of climate change .

adjust to climate change . Some technological breakthroughs are already making cleaner energy Unfortunately, scientists and energy experts say the odds of all these things breaking our way are That is actually hard to say, which is one reason scientists are urging that emissions be cut; they But even many experts who are optimistic about technological solutions warn that current efforts are not

This last portion of "Breaking Boundaries" is very similar to the endings of the episodes of "Our Planet" that tackled humanity's negative impact on our world. Those eps typically wrap up on a positive note, with Attenborough being like, "All we need to do to fix this problem is this one weird trick." They all make it sound so easy.

It's not easy at all, though. From where we sit right now, it seems just about impossible. Here in America we have one political party that is dead-set against doing anything to head off the climate crisis, and the other isn't willing to do what is needed to overcome that obstructionism, even though they represent far more Americans than the Republicans do.

And with those same Republicans openly opposing the concept of free and fair elections in an attempt to cement permanent power for their unpopular party, it's not looking good for any kind of positive U.S. intervention.

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Climate change skeptics might make a lot of noise, but the scientific consensus on the matter is pretty unassailable. 97% of climate scientists agree that climate change is an on-going man-made phenomenon. No one knows exactly how serious the problem will become, but there are plenty of reasons why you should be concerned. However, too much carbon causes the water to become more acidic. Since the beginning of the industrial revolution the acidity of our oceans has increased by around 30%, and the problem is likely to become considerably worse by the end of the century.

But how about climate change ? Climate change is a super-important topic, and sadly the mitigation part, which is very, very important, has gotten 95 percent to the attention — though not enough that we can say we ’ re in good shape there. The greatest expert on energy is Václav Smil. It’d be great if we could stop at two degrees. Unless there are huge surprises on scientific advances, I just don’t see it happening, but who would have said that [about] radio waves or wireless or chips with a billion transistors? We know Václav is not optimistic . Yet to really get people engaged, you have to say

The idea that actual substantive steps could be taken to halt the climate crisis in this environment kinda feels laughable.

"Breaking Boundaries" doesn't really get into all that. Instead, it opts for a more vague "we all need to do our part" approach. Which I get, I guess, but it's still a bummer. Because it is not at all on regular people to solve the climate crisis. There is, in fact, basically nothing that most of us could do to help if the actual major polluters don't take drastic action as well.

For those of us who aren't part of a major government or in some kind of major decision-making role at a polluting corporation, what are our options? We don't really have any meaningful say in all this. We don't decide what cars are available and affordable. We don't decide what food is on our grocery store shelves. We don't have the ability to plant trees en masse. We don't get to choose whether the products we buy are recyclable.

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Gates never planned to focus on climate change , but while working in Africa with the foundation he started with his wife, Melinda, in 2000, he came to see just how vulnerable those in developing countries are to the effects of rising temperatures. So 15 years ago Gates started educating himself on climate Bill Gates: Nuclear power can be done in a way that none of those failures of the past would recur, because just the physics of how it's built. I admit, convincing people of that will be almost as hard as actually building it. But since it may be necessary to avoid climate change , we shouldn't give up.

We believe climate change is real and human activity contributes to it. We recognize the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (a United Nations research agency) that the use of fossil fuels contributes to increases in global temperatures. Chevron shares the concerns of governments and the public about climate change . Who wouldn’t agree? Is it necessary to ask? Soon it may become clear that scientists were too cautious about the speed and magnitude of global heating and its consequences.

Most of us are just along for this ride, because nothing we do as individuals will make any kind of dent in the climate change problem. Don't believe me? A 2017 study demonstrated conclusively that just 100 fossil fuel companies (some private, some state owned) caused approximately 70 percent of total greenhouse gas pollution since we started measuring it. If you aren't a high ranking government official or sitting on the board of one of those companies, there's not a lot you can do to impact any of that.

Those who do have the power to solve the problem, meanwhile, don't really seem to want to. Corporations care a lot about their near-term bottom lines, and very little about fixing the climate problem that they have caused. And so it's on governments to force them — but they're not trying hard enough.

And so it was a little bit amusing to me when Attenborough dropped this gem near the end of "Breaking Boundaries": "There's another transformation that is almost unbelievably simple, but it's key to staying within our planet's boundaries. It can be adopted by you or me — in fact, by anyone with the freedom to choose what food they eat."

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That sounds great! Unfortunately, it ignores how people work. You can't just tell everyone they should eat the environmentally friendly food items and expect it to happen. There will always be a meaningful percentage of people who simply will not do it. Folks who are too committed to believing everything is fine to take action in a way that would require them to admit to themselves that, actually, everything is not fine.

Our future on Earth is in the hands of, by the scale of the entire population of Earth, a relatively small group of people. The rest of us can vote, tweet, write blog posts and make small, ultimately meaningless-to-the-big-picture attempts to make changes in our own lives. We're not completely powerless, or completely at the mercy of those people who are in charge of stuff. But the power gap is enormous.

That's not to say you shouldn't bother doing anything. It's extremely reasonable to expect that things will get really, really bad in the next few decades — bad enough that the powers-that-be will be forced to do what they should already be doing. The longer they drag their feet, the more abrupt the shift toward a new normal will be. So might as well get some practice in. You're gonna have to do all this stuff eventually anyway, assuming the effects of climate change don't kill you first.

And there is some meaning in doing what you can. You might not be able to do enough to save lives, but you should try anyway because it's the right thing to do. But "the right thing to do" isn't, in this case, the same thing as "the effective thing to do." It's great that "Breaking Boundaries" lays out the steps we need to take to handle the climate crisis — it's just unfortunate that it seems to forget who actually has the power to solve.

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This is interesting!