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Will Chasing Ice's Epic Adventure Change Minds About Climate Change?

We take a look behind the scenes to see at how the filmmakers managed to capture these graphic images of climate change as it happens. But will the movie be able to affect enough people to change the fate of the ice?

On YouTube, among the dog and cat videos, there’s a clip of a 60-year-old woman standing outside a movie theater, with a pained look on her face. Before the interviewer can ask a question, she explains that she’s just seen the film Chasing Ice, and she longer thinks global warming is "bullshit." She used to throw people out the house just for bringing up the subject—but now she wants to apologize. "I have to undo my damage," she says.

Probably lots of people leave movie theaters thinking their lives have changed—I remember wanting to be the Karate Kid back in the '80s. But maybe the woman really is doing something about global warming today, because Chasing Ice captures something that I.P.C.C. reports, and Al Gore presentations, don’t. It’s a graphic, urgent film about vanishing ice, and it’s wrapped around a compelling human story: one man’s effort to make a record, and try and make people understand.

As James Balog explained in a 2009 TED talk, his Extreme Ice Survey—the subject of the film—aims to strip away the abstract questions of computer models and conjecture about whether "it is raining more or less". By looking at Arctic and alpine environments, he says, there’s no doubt. "The changes are happening. They’re very visible. They’re photographable. They’re measurable."

The video above is a Fast Company production looking at the making of movie. Director Jeff Orlowski describes how he followed Balog around the world, how he and Balog almost died five or six times, and some of the practical difficulties of filming at 30 and 40 below with sensitive equipment.

The question is whether the movie—which has been nominated for an Oscar and has received plenty of coverage—will convert the unconverted, or simply push the blood pressure of "warmists" even higher. After Hurricane Sandy, and a spate of heavy meteorological events around the world, it’s possible the public is engaging again, after several years of relative disinterest. We’ll see. What’s difficult to imagine is that anyone could watch Chasing Ice and not be changed, just a little bit.