Discovery Channel cuts climate change episode from Planet Earth follow-up

Jeremy Hance
November 17, 2011

The new series Frozen Planet, by the creators of the super-popular and universally-acclaimed Planet Earth, details the wildlife and changing nature of the world's poles: the Antarctic and the Arctic. But while the four-year production filmed seven episodes, American audiences will only be treated to six. Discovery Channel has dropped the last episode that deals specifically with climate change.

Discovery Channel has stated that it was taking out the last episode due to 'scheduling conflicts', but others believe the channel is cutting the episode 'On Thin Ice' because it deals directly with the impacts of global warming on the Arctic and Antarctic. And the US is not alone, around one third of the networks to air the series worldwide have opted on accepting the series from the BBC without the last episode.

"It’s a bit like pressing the stop button on Titanic just as the iceberg appears," a representative with Greenpeace told The Telegraph. "Climate change is the most important part of the polar story, the warming in the Arctic can’t be denied, it’s changing the environment there in ways that are making experts fearful for the future."

In the Arctic warming temperatures have decimated sea ice, imperiling species that depend on it such as polar bear and walruses, and upending the lives of indigenous people. Average temperatures in the Arctic are rising around twice as fast as global temperatures, making the region especially sensitive to climate change. This summer saw the lowest or second-lowest (depending on the research center) extent of sea ice yet recorded in the Arctic, while in the Canadian Arctic ice shelves have halved in just six years.

"These are fascinating, low-temperature ecosystems with wonderful, amazing things to be discovered. So most of the series is about that, but if you're going do it as thoroughly as we hoped to, you have to at some stage address the question of whether or not we are damaging it, or it's disappearing or changing," legendary broadcaster and conservationist, David Attenborough, who narrates the series told the Guardian. Attenborough made his first trip to the North Pole for the series at the age of 80. A part of this trip appears in the final episode as he directly addresses viewers on the issue.

While Attenborough says climate change was not the 'prime motive' of the series, the filmmakers were never reluctant to tackle the issue. However, it appears that Discovery Channel may be.

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Jeremy Hance
mongabay.com (November 17, 2011).

Discovery Channel cuts climate change episode from Planet Earth follow-up.