ANTARCTICA:
END OF THE EARTH

Why Antarctica?

We went to Antarctica to film a documentary about climate change. Except we wanted to do something different.

We didn't want to try and match the BBC or National Geographic and make something beautiful. We all know Antarctica is beautiful. We wanted to show the other side. The grit, the determination it takes to even get out there. The damn hard side of actually filming in such an unforgiving environment. Besides, there were only two of us going - a miniscule operation compared to other camera crews.

So, fast forward weeks of intensive research and planning, and we find ourselves onboard the Ocean Endeavour.

This documentary is about people. Because climate change is about people. The current conversation mostly consists of numbers and percentages and degrees, but it’s hard to be inspired by a number.

So we stick our cameras in everyone's faces and demand they explain why they're here. What drives them? What effects of climate change do they find? What are they going to do when they get back? How are they trying to save Antarctica - and the world?

PART ONE:
WHY SO POLITICAL?

Will Trump’s Climate Change Denial Be Tested?

Extreme weather-related disasters aren’t new but they are on the increase. Globally, the number of climate-related disasters has more than tripled since 1980. This year we've seen Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Jose wreak a path of destruction in the US, we've seen thousands die and millions displaced in South Asian floods. Australia's summer broke 205 records, while Europe experienced a deadly heat wave amid warnings of worsening weather disasters on the continent.

97% of climate scientists agree: climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities. In addition, most of the leading scientific organisations worldwide have issued public statements endorsing this position.

Despite this, the voice of the 3% is incredibly loud.

Donald Trump is leading the chant. Long before Trump took the most influential job on the planet, he was vocal on climate change denial, issuing bitesize statements on twitter and brandishing anyone who disagreed an idiot.

Whether you believe climate change is caused by humans or not, the evidence is clear: the climate is changing and scientists are urging us to sit up and take action.

HuffPost UK travelled to Antarctica to see first-hand the effects of climate change - to discover what the rising temperature on the continent means for the rest of the world.

In part one of End Of The Earth, we break down the science for anyone without a degree in glaciers - speaking with leading scientists and climate change deniers as well as hearing from soon-to-be climate refugees.

97% of scientists believe climate change is man-made, so why is the voice of the 3% so loud?

PART TWO:
HERE COMES THE SCIENCE

Why is Antarctica important?

2017 has already seen record lows for Antarctic sea ice which acts as the earth's air conditioner regulating the global temperature and offsetting warming and rising oceans. It’s also seen the highest ever temperature recorded for the continent. A balmy 17.5 degrees celsius. The measurement was recorded at the Esperanza base on March 24th, 2015 but was confirmed in March as part of the World Meteorological Organization's ongoing study of extreme weather and climate conditions around the world.

The Antarctic Peninsula is daily recording changes in the environment, and change is occurring faster than almost anywhere else on earth.

Antarctica warming has global consequences.

Antarctica has 90% of the world's ice. Melt it and the rest of the world swims.

Robert Swan, Explorer and Activist

In part two of End Of The Earth, HuffPost's Lucy Sherriff understands why Antarctica's preservation is vital for the survival of the rest of the world. Lucy gets to grips with the science behind sea ice and land ice and discovers the fate of penguins from leading ornithologist, Noah Strycker.

CLIMATE CHANGE FACTS

Scientific Consensus

Ninety-seven percent of climate scientists agree that climate-warming trends over the past century are very likely due to human activities, and most of the leading scientific organisations worldwide have issued public statements endorsing this position.

The world is getting warmer

Source: NASA and NOAA

Source: NASA and NOAA

The planet's average temperature has risen about 1.1 degrees Celsius since the late 19th century, a change driven largely by increased carbon dioxide and other human-made emissions into the atmosphere. Most of the warming occurred in the past 35 years, with 16 of the 17 warmest years on record occurring since 2001.

Natural disasters are happening more often

According to global reinsurer Munich Re, the number of climate-related disasters has more than tripled since 1980.

Sea levels are rising

The global sea level rose about eight inches in the last century. The rate in the last twenty years, however, is nearly double that of the last century. Sea level rise is caused primarily by two factors related to global warming: the added water from melting ice sheets and glaciers and the expansion of sea water as it warms. This graph tracks the change in sea level since 1993 as observed by satellites.

SEA LEVELSData source: Satellite sea level observations.Credit: NASA and IPCC

SEA LEVELS
Data source: Satellite sea level observations.
Credit: NASA and IPCC

Shrinking ice sheets

The Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets have decreased in mass. Data from NASA's Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment show Greenland lost 150 to 250 cubic kilometres (36 to 60 cubic miles) of ice per year between 2002 and 2006, while Antarctica lost about 152 cubic kilometres (36 cubic miles) of ice between 2002 and 2005.

Land Ice vs Sea Ice

Land ice: Ice shelves are the floating parts of ice streams and glaciers, and they act as a plug to the grounded ice behind them; when ice shelves collapse, the ice behind accelerates toward the ocean, where it then adds to sea level rise.

Sea ice: Sheets of ice float on the water, they reflect the sun and keep the sea cool. When sea ice melts, the water absorbs the sun's rays and heats up. The ice doesn't add to the sea level - because it's already part of the water - but it does increase temperatures which causes more land ice to melt.

PART THREE: CLIMATE REFUGEES

ON THE FRONTLINE

It has been predicted that by 2050, the number of climate refugees could rise to 50 million.

The global sea level rose about eight inches in the last century. The rate in the last twenty years, however, is nearly double that of the last century. Sea level rise is caused primarily by two factors related to global warming: the added water from melting ice sheets and glaciers and the expansion of sea water as it warms. The current NASA estimation is that by 2100 the sea levels will rise by up to four feet, depending on how quickly land-based glaciers melt.

Small island nations and cities built on water will be affected the most.

"We are all global warming victims. If we islanders survive, I promise you, the whole world will survive."

Bryant Zebedee, Marshall Islands

In part three of End Of The Earth, activists from low lying islands in the South Pacific tell us why they do not want to be climate refugees and global passengers from 2041 exhibition contextualise the importance of the frozen continent and it’s colossal impact on the coastlines back home.

Micronesian activist Yolanda Joab, sheds light on her the fight to save her nation from rising seas

Climate change harshly affects small Pacific Island nations. Communities are "adapting and fighting" to prevent rising sea levels from sweeping away their cultures.

In this video from Micronesia, Joab addresses world leaders who “throw up their hands and walk away”.

For six years, Yolanda has helped lead a programme that has educated some 10,000 school students in 62 schools in 57 communities, helping island communities to take matters into their own hands and develop schemes for tackling climate change according to their own needs.

PART FOUR: LIFE IN ANTARCTICA

LIFE IN ANTARCTICA

There are no indigenous people in Antarctica. There are no trees in the driest, coldest place on Earth. For half the year there is no light, and for the other half, no darkness. During the winter, sea ice - which in some places is three miles thick - may double the size of the continent. In fact, there isn’t much to make Antarctica a hospitable place. So how do the 1,000-odd scientists and researchers survive in such an isolated place for months on end?

In part four of End Of The Earth, we find out what it takes to be selected for a job in Antarctica and we discover how the influx of tourists to the region could change it forever.

LIVING ON THE EDGE

Miko Golachowski is an expert on Antarctica's marine life. There isn't much he doesn't know about elephant seals or krill.

In 2002, he went on his first expedition to the Henryk Arctowski Polish Antarctic Station. Since then, he has participated in three more expeditions to the station, spending up to a year at a time on the most inhospitable continent on the planet.

Miko is lucky to be alive after falling down a crevasse. He also discovered how difficult it can be stuck in Antarctica when one of your closest relatives is taken ill.

Listen to his full story here:

PART FIVE: WHOSE RESPONSIBILITY IS IT ANYWAY?

BUSINESSES, GOVERNMENTS OR US?

In part five of End Of The Earth, we ask if it's too late for individuals to make a difference to the changing climate.

Hearing from businesses, politicians and ordinary people from all over the world - we learn of the potential solutions available. Stephen Hawking offers some radical options and Lucy concludes the documentary with the lessons she has learnt in Antarctica.

"I am not denying the importance of climate change and global warming. Unlike Donald Trump who may just have taken the most serious and wrong decision the world has seen."

Professor Stephen Hawking, Keynote Speaker - Starmus Festival 2017

Tiny Action, big difference

Lifestyle changes:

- Swap cars for public transport, bikes and carpooling
- Campaign for greener transport infrastructure
- Purchasing hybrid, hydrogen, electric transport
- Reduce, reuse, and recycle
- Consider being a vegetarian or eat less beef
- Source locally from responsible suppliers

“Our problem here on earth.. It’s not that people don’t know it’s a problem, that people just simply don’t know what to do about it."

Robert Swan, Explorer and Activist

- Stop using plastic straws
- Use solar, wind, water and/or geothermal systems
- Take quick showers
- Vote for leaders who will legislate change
- Offset your carbon footprint
- Turn out lights
- Ditch plastic water bottles

SOUTH POLE
ENERGY CHALLENGE

Trekking to the South Pole

Robert Swan is the first person to have walked to both the North and South Poles. His leadership and determination made his 900 mile journey to the South Pole, the longest unassisted march in history.

On November 15, 2017, Rob and his son Barney will start a 600-mile, eight-week journey on foot to the South Pole. The first-ever expedition to the South Pole powered solely by clean energy technologies. Over this expedition, they will demonstrate and showcase cutting edge technologies robust enough to work in one of the harshest environments on earth. Using the expedition as a platform for engagement, the father and son team hope to drive change in the way we use energy.

CREDITS

Director/ Executive Producer: Dawn Kelly
Presenter/ Producer: Lucy Sherriff

Editors: Paco Anselmi, Peter Price, Adam Westbrook, Lauren Brennan and Max Thurlow
Assistant Producer: Didi Mae Hand
Photo credits: Getty, NASA, Chi Wa Lao, UNEP
Additional footage: Trent Brenton, Barney Swan, Getty Images
Special Thanks: 2041 Expeditions and passengers, Quark Expeditions, British Antarctic Survey, Starmus Festival, Visualise, Naomi Shelton, Geoffrey Goodwin, Francesca Syrett, Rob Swan, NSF-Polar Programs

Publication date: 11 September 2017

All images subject to copyright