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Thin Ice — the movie

Filed under: — raypierre @ 8 April 2013

Some of my friends have made a film, Thin Ice, which tells the story of CO2 and climate from the standpoint of the climate scientists who are out there in the trenches trying to figure out what is going on. I have a small role in the film myself, and I am sure RealClimate readers will recognize many more familiar faces. One of the many things I like about this film is that it puts a human face on climate science. It’s harder to demonize people when you feel you know them, and realize that in the end they’re not that different from you and your neighbors (except maybe they know more about CO2 and climate than some others you might meet).

A description of the project, including trailers and clips can be found here . The film will be available during Earth Week for free streaming. Or even better, you can arrange a free screening for your group (details for obtaining a free Earth Week download for screening are available here ). Read below the fold for more information

Here is what Peter Barrett, the team leader for the film project has to say:

“A group of us have produced another film about climate science, but in this one scientists do the talking.

Some are well known to you, others not so, but all talk with passion , concern and some humour about their work. The film is mainly the work of geologist and photographer Simon Lamb and science documentary producer David Sington, DOX Productions, who worked together on Earth Story (BBC Horizon, 1998). The story line is Simon’s journey as a geologist. He has heard the terrible things the press have been reporting about his climate science colleagues, so he decides to take his camera and find out what’s really happening.

The key messages from this 73 minute film are that scientists can be trusted and that ultimately we have to quit using fossil fuels. We do not try and say how this should be done, but we hope that the film will lead audiences into some deeper thinking on the issue and perhaps even a shift toward solutions. Check out the website , where you can see the 3 minute trailer. The website contains another 3 hours of supplementary material in 37 short video clips about various aspects of climate science.

We’d like your help in spreading these messages by hosting a screening in your community. It’s also a chance to talk with them afterwards through a panel discussion/Q&A. We are making the film available as a free download (2GB) for a 2 ½ day period after Earth Day starts in New Zealand – just complete the Screenings Information sheet attached and e-mail to so we can post it on the website and send you download instructions. The film will also be available free for streaming to those who are happy just to watch it at home.

We’ve also attached a one-pager on the project and a poster

Feel free to pass this message on. Looking forward to hearing from you soon.

Peter Barrett for the Thin Ice Team

PS While the film is in English with a range of accents we’ll have versions with subtitles in English, Mandarin, Spanish, French and German.”

44 Responses to “Thin Ice — the movie”

  1. 1
  2. 2
    Toby Thaler says:

    Thanks from me also.

    “we have to quit using fossil fuels” — Keep repeating…

  3. 3
    David B. Benson says:

    Thin Ice Team — Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

  4. 4

    Is that not related to the book of the same name written by Mark Bowen and introduced in 2007 here?

    [Response: Not really. That book was mostly about Lonnie Thompson, with sidelights on a lot of important historical figures in climate science. “Thin Ice” seems to be a popular title, c.f the Midwestern Noir mystery flick Thin Ice , set in Kenosha, Wisconsin right at the end of the Union Pacific Metra North line. –raypierre]

  5. 5
    Susan Anderson says:

    I too am grateful.

    One can hope the current explosion of phony skepticism is in its supernova phase. I get the impression those who choose a position and go for broke to support it are not pervious to the true scientific habit of mind. They think *they* are the ones doing science, and have no sense at all of the curiosity and openness that is at the core of real science.

    Very few people can imagine that others are not just like them. If they have an agenda, they will assume you do too.

    Speaking of which, a nice little bit from Feynman:

    “Yes, of course. We have to learn that these are the kinds of disciplines in the field of science that you have to learn – to know when you know and when you don’t know, and what it is you know and what it is you don’t know. You’ve go to be very careful not to confuse yourself.”

    I’m a big fan of knowing what one doesn’t know. It’s a start.

  6. 6
    Johan Stroman says:

    Great to see this! Have forwarded to a number of community contacts here in BC, Canada. Wishing that someone who might be wavering, takes a firm step and then another to being more tuned in and active on this topic!

  7. 7

    [HEADLINE:] A man, a plan, polar cities

    [SUBHEADLINE:] A futurist sees humans in the Arctic, lots of us

    Interview me, sonmeone or see my blog:

  8. 8

    Let me add my thanks to those already expressed.

    Got to see if I can get a screening organized!

  9. 9
    Heidi Roop says:

    For a Thin Ice screening near you visit: If you’d like to host a screening, please email your details (see to by April 15th, 2013.

  10. 10
    John Russell (@JohnRussell40) says:

    ‘Thin Ice’ is a popular title because of it suggests the metaphor “skating on thin ice” —which is what the human race is doing at the moment.

  11. 11
    Toby says:

    With due respect to you & Stefan, Ray, it is refreshing to see a host of new faces (to me, anyway!) and hear fresh voices. But, thanks to you pioneers (Real Climate and SkS for two!), science communication of this topic has come a long way.

    It may sink in with the public that climate science is a lot more than the few individuals we see sitting in front of congressional committees – but that is all there is to the deniers.

    The trailer is definitely Dawkinsesque – English scientist sees attacks on science and seeks the truth! – but that is not a bad thing.

  12. 12
    Christopher Squire says:

    When is ‘Earth Week’?

  13. 13
    Joel Huberman says:

    I hope that the movie will be available for download, or on DVD, after Earth Week. I’m in the process of moving into a continuing care retirement community in southern New Hampshire, and I have plans to start a course on climate change for residents of this community after I’m moved in. The moving process won’t be completed until early May, so I’ll be late for Earth Week under the best of circumstances. More likely I’ll be about 4 months late, because I need to plan my course. I envision it starting in September. “Thin Ice” would be an ideal vehicle for the course I’m planning! Thanks to you and the other film makers for producing it.

  14. 14
    JG says:

    I just watched the trailer. I’m impressed. I will want to see the whole film before final judging. I’ve felt the tone of the current voices of discontent is quite different from 40 years ago. The pendulum swings over to the various sciences from time-to-time. I remember during the Cold War nuclear science was “not good”. NASA and the Apollo Program caused a major swing the positive way with a following negative swing over biologists and evolution. The current attack on climate scientists is very personal and seems somewhat of a mass hysteria, at least within a small vociferous mass. Best wishes.

  15. 15

    I don’t know about the inability to demonize people you think you know. Who didn’t feel queasy about John Cassavetes after Rosemary’s Baby?

  16. 16
    PeteB says:

    Looking forward to it – just one question in “2.6-Factors besides CO2” Wally Broecker says when you include the effect of water vapour the CO2 climate sensitivity increases from 1.2 deg C to 3.5 deg C – is that correct ? – that sounds too high to me – especially if you include the lapse rate

    More generally – has someone been through doing a ‘fact check’ on all the commentary – it would be a shame to hand any easy ammunition to the critics (although I’m sure they will invent some reasons to not like it, even if everything is 100% defensible)

    [Response: The 3.5C number would be the full IPCC mid-range sensitivity, and Wally was in error (but not too much) in attributing all of that to water vapor. Some of the difference over the raw CO2 Planck-only sensitivity comes from cloud feedbacks, largely dissipation of low clouds. I don’t know if the Thin Ice team had an independent fact-checker, but they are quite knowledgeable and are likely to have caught anything major (I haven’t reviewed all of the supplementary footage personally). A lot of the material was circulated earlier and some things got caught that way, but in a movie like this it’s hard to guarantee against some faults slipping through. For that matter, in a movie based largely on interviews, there’s the question of how a slight inaccuracy like Wally’s should be handled. You’d lose a lot of spontaneity if you went back and did a re-take, and it would all start to look scripted. At this point, I think the best thing would be for us all to help keep a log of things that need correction, and have the Thin Ice team compile this and make it available on the site. You raise a good point. I’ll suggest this to them. –raypierre]

  17. 17

    Great and I thank you.

    Those who study message delivery note that Hollywood really won’t touch global warming. Instead they blunder past the science and go for the cinematic calamity. Or will bury the issue deep into subplot or poetic metaphor.

    A pity, because this really is the greatest saga, an epic tale, and possibly a momentous tragedy. And all real. Endlessly interesting conflicts, dramas and huge battles with very, very powerful, very wealthy and ruthless forces.

    I see it as beyond interesting, captivating and I expect there are some people who might follow this issue just for the drama. Everything is thrilling, because everything matters. And the struggle between power and ethics alone is vastly consequential. Huge.

    Just look at the pitched PR battles between blogs, each is an encampment. We see troll battles in the comments below any blog devoted to the issue. Any substantially wise and insightful YouTube presentation will produce rants and counter-rants. Giant issues reduced to hockey stick images, and bashing personalities. Obscene and vicious PR campaigns detailed by Oreskes, Mann and Gelbspan. Perfectly cast heroes, martyrs and villains everywhere.

    There are dramatic issues of the moment, it used to be about thermometers and data issues enough to make statistics interesting, then Arctic ice melt, hidden methane, stratosphere warming, jet stream meanders and oceanic currents, thermohaline and acidification… there are hundreds of fascinating sub-plots and intrigues. I would think that there would be documentarians lining up. Drama is everywhere. ALL the sciences are somehow involved – even tangentially – try astroclimatology, paleotempestology.

    Because the stakes are infinite, no issue is too small. So the chess game becomes real. Where the actions of the pawns become as powerful and important as the Queens and Kings (royalty loses status on a global planet – all are equalized).

    There is no other issue more important. Eventually, soon maybe, everyone will be paying very close attention.

    What a saga! And the ending is not written. We get to author the ending.

    Really thrilling. Can’t wait to see this movie, and to help author a continuing saga and be in every scene that I can.

  18. 18

    I want to see the movie, I like what you are doing, but you have got to get a different poster.

    That poster is for scientist’s bulletin boards, not for attracting an audience to view the film.

    I will download print this, but I am pretty sure that posting it will not be that effective. Or rather it could be better. Time to call upon the Hollywood movie poster designers…really. Design a poster that makes people want to see it.

    [Response: I’m sure you are right. The problem is that this movie was put together on a shoestring, and within the budget limitations I think they did what they could. It was a small miracle that they managed to scrape together enough to finish production at all. If there is a good graphic artist out there who would like to contribute a better poster, I’m sure the Thin Ice team would appreciate the help. –raypierre]

  19. 19

    Thanks for this.

    It feels like the weather is really going crazy just lately. One minutes its hot. Next its cold. Then its snowing in April. It is all very bizarre.

  20. 20
    Heidi Roop says:

    To answer a few questions here- the film WILL be available for download starting on April 24th, 2013. You will be able to purchase and download it from the Shop that will be listed on the website.

    In regards to the poster, there is a better poster, about the Global Launch screenings on Earth Day. Some of the information originally posted is incorrect. For the updated Earth Day screening flyer, see or go to:

  21. 21
    patrick says:

    I knew it!

    –What’s the difference between a scientist and a sceptic?

    –The scientist is the sceptic with a sense of humor.

    Well, usually.

    I like the poster. It conveys “a human face…people…you feel you know”–as the post says.
    Not to discourage other designs.

    The trailer’s great. Hollywood couldn’t do better.

  22. 22
    simon abingdon says:

    @Daniel Halevi Bloom #7 “A man, a plan, polar cities”
    Shades of “A man, a plan, a canal, Panama” which is a nice palindrome.

  23. 23
    BC Nurse Prof says:

    And in the Antarctic, the thermohaline circulation is faltering:

    This has serious implications for Arctic ice as well.

  24. 24
    Blair Dowden says:

    I really liked how the short videos gave me insight into what climate scientists do on a daily basis. In particular, showing how blowing carbon dioxide over the radiation detector changed the spectrum of the received radiation was fascinating. But how many people will understand what it means?

    However, the trailer is seriously flawed. What I remember is a guy pretending to read to his daughter but really ignoring her, followed by “Climate Science is a Fraud” repeated many times, with the last sentence, the one people will remember, “is it all a lie?”

    This is a great template for a crude anti global warming brainwashing campaign, but I don’t think that was the intention. A basic rule for communicating a controversial subject is to not repeat the statements you are trying to debunk. People remember the simple statement (its a fraud) rather than the complex information that follows (reference). Instead, make positive statements that undermine the false information.

    I realize this project was a lot of hard work, and it is easy for me to sit here and criticize, but this trailer really misses the mark.

  25. 25
    chris colose says:

    I also enjoyed a few of the trailers, despite a few scientific quibbles here and there. I’m looking forward to the entire thing. This is also the first time I heard a satisfactory explanation of the greenhouse effect in a “popular source” video such as this.

    I like presenting what scientists do rather than just the science…its easier to relate to people who have family, friends, job stress, and who can share a beer with colleagues …rather than some secret club that declares what is truth and not from the ivory tower. Meeting the scientists is probably a very good first step toward building public confidence in science as a way to make the world intelligible.

  26. 26
    Brendon says:

    Thanks for the videos, it’s great to see the people on the ground, rather than reading the journal abstracts and summaries.

  27. 27
    Steve Fish says:

    Re- Comment by chris colose — 10 Apr 2013 @ 5:09 PM

    What Chris said! (Potential duplicate comment.)


  28. 28
  29. 29

    I will have to free up time to check this out – looks interesting. The “Thin Ice” title reminds me of 2 concerns that have appeared on my radar recently. Bedmap2, which shows much more of the Antarctic ice is grounded well below sea level than previously thought, and increasing evidence of deep ocean warming.

    These two things add up to increased support for the view of some like James Hansen that very rapid sea level rise is possible.

  30. 30
    Jeremy Grimm says:

    This may sound silly given the more substantive comments on this site. The artwork for this Movie — the webpage header for Thin Ice — is striking and very beautiful.

  31. 31
    Alexandre says:

    This kind of open and direct communication from scientists is desperately needed.

    Institutions should also join in and make clear, simple statements regarding global warming. Something that could reach the broader audience, not just us climate geeks.

  32. 32
    toby says:

    Comparing to An Inconvenient Truth, I think this is better suited to the times.

    A lot of money was spent on the older film, Al Gore pitched it as evenly as possible, but it comes across now as a trifle haranguing, moralistic and a bit cliched – I am talking about the brooding menacing music, the storms floods, fires and droughts depicted. Time I think we got away from all that – its shock value is limited.

    This film has excellent presentation and production values, but I loved the intimacy it achieve with the scientists. They are so obviously sincere, enthusiastic and loving their work. It as different as listening to a speech, and having a chat with a knowledgeable mate down at the pub. I hope it gets distributed as widely as possible, and penetrates into the schools, where I think it will light enthusiasm for science among the young.

    Well done.

  33. 33
    Radge Havers says:

    Re: posters, designy ephemera, etc. 

    Universities with decent commercial art courses of study can be loaded with students, often very talented, desperate to build a portfolio. Some art professors occasionally welcome outside requests from people with little or no budget to speak of who need promotional art work. These jobs may be put to a class as a competition, or given to specific students (depending) and are developed under the professional direction of the professor and the watchful eye of the client. You can throw in a little cash reward, too, although I hate to say it, be aware that it may be pocketed by the teacher.

    Anyhow, it wouldn’t hurt to investigate your local art schools/departments and see if there’s a possible fit for you.

  34. 34
    mike peters says:

    why wait to release????

  35. 35

    Thin ice is actually photogenic, it has meaning especially if you photograph it often. Arctic Sea ice in fact is describing what is happening. After years of observing sea ice horizon shifts, I have determined a new way to measure ice thickness optically, which is ideally intertwined with the surface to air interface, in other words, the radiation budget of sea ice itself.

  36. 36
    tomwys says:

    Putting a “…human face on climate science…” is sorely needed, and I eagerly anticipate seeing the documentary. Attacking people should be beneath all of us, especially when there are so many misguided ideas worthy of the skewer.

    The stated goal: “…ultimately we have to quit using fossil fuels” should be “Petrochemical Husbandry (PH),” as there are far better uses for them that don’t include moving 2 tonnes of metal and plastic around to transport 100Kg of protoplasm, etc., etc. (lots of other wasteful things to choose from).

    The risk taken in connecting CO2, climate, and (randomly) extreme weather events to PH is extraordinarily high, in that the current disconnect between temperatures and CO2 is undermining the environmentally correct PH goal. This is the real “Thin Ice” being trodden upon!

    Please do not break through it!!!

  37. 37
    patrick says:

    This film is great. New marks and milestones in the communication of climate science are dropping all the time.

  38. 38
    Steve Metzler says:

    This was a great film. Just finished watching it, downloading for future perusal. The film was much more powerful than the trailer, that I watched a week ago, would indicate. After watching the trailer, I had an idea it might be a little… well, flippant.

    Good to see the likes of Raypierre and Phil Jones making an appearance, and also the excellent portrayals of the many dedicated, and dare I say unsung heroes of climatology working right at the coal face.

    Hopefully this will go a step or two beyond just preaching to the converted.

  39. 39
    Edward Greisch says:

    “Server not found
    Firefox can’t find the server at s3-‐ap-‐southeast-‐”

    Safari found the server yesterday and spent something like 17 hours watching 58 minutes of it. I wasn’t watching except for a few seconds. Safari can’t download it.

    Now you say you are going to paywall it tomorrow. Do you want me to see it or not?

    [Response: Hi, Ed. Sorry you’re having problems viewing. I’ve forwarded your comment to Peter Barrett, and I hope he’ll be able to fix the problem or provide advice. –raypierre]

  40. 40
    Edward Greisch says:

    PS: I was trying to see the lowest “quality” version. “Flash” wants to be downloaded every day but never works. Mac OS 10.6.8.

  41. 41
    Hank Roberts says:

    Ed, check your Mac control panel for a Flash control button, might be something there. Flash may be off by default for security reasons (a good idea); you may need to find a downloaded installer and invoke it to run to install, and give it permission to store files on your computer, for the time it takes to do a download or streaming view. Just guessing of course.

    This might help:

    but ask your local Mac person’s advice

  42. 42
    Martin Vermeer says:

    I watched it on Ubuntu — hi-res, flawless.

    It’s really nicely made, although I wonder how it comes across for people without any science background. It helped me really understand better what these folks are doing. And the amount of commitment is amazing. I hope at least that stays as a take-home message.

    One thing I didn’t like so much — but then I’m a bloody scientist — was the longish shot of the Earth from the space station, aurorae and city lights etc. Beautiful, beautiful footage that I could gaze into for hours — like a fireplace, or a bubbling brook — but what has it got to do with climatology?

  43. 43
    Patrick says:

    The Thin Ice film and-more is in the 39 webclips (kindly put there by the filmakers) on the Videos page of the Thin Ice project site:

    This is a more interactive way of seeing the film: you get the edit (and you can comment too).

    Be happy. If it wasn’t already a new day dawning in the communication of climate science, it is now.

    Simon Lamb and David Sington have done a masterful job. Bravo! Brava! to everyone on the Thin Ice team. Every clip is good, every one is important.

    RC media buffs will want to catch these two clips, though it’s a shame to stop there:

    (The raw raypierre. He’s got the knack. His students are lucky.)

    The second one is also posted on Stefan’s home page, with other good media–plus: check his movie page.

    (Stefan is clear as a bell. His students are lucky too.)

    The second clip was/is not in the film. Nor this one:

    –an important insight into context.

    For people doing stuff, not only talking, see other clips. You’ve got the edit.

  44. 44
    Patrick says:

    I feel obliged to answer myself and say the film is worth it just for the film-editing clinic.

    After producing all that unique stuff, their edit fully realizes their goal in about one hour and seven minutes–which caps a great production feat with brisk editing and a pleasant style.

    “Our goal in this project (and Simon’s in the film) is to give you the chance to find out just what scientists working in this field are doing, and why their findings cause them so much concern.”

    Werner Herzog, what do you think?