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In 'Chasing Ice,' climate change gets its close up

Associated Press Published: November 5, 2012

Balog: He loves to see me come apart, I know he does, really. (Laughs)

Orlowski: It was really powerful.

AP: What was the absolute worst moment?

Balog: Probably the worst moment in the entire project ... that scene is in the film, when the helicopter pilot turns to my collaborator Jason Box and says 'Ah, we're losing oil pressure."... So you look out the window and you realize, 'Well, I hope that other engine just keeps working fine because it's really cold down there and there's icebergs and if we go in that we'll die really, really fast.' And as we were going back and this unfortunately wasn't caught on videotape, he came on the radio again. He said, 'I'm losing oil pressure in engine number two' and we were still a ways out from the landing field and then you're really starting to think 'OK, where's the life raft; where's the life jackets; what happens if we go down? What will this be like?' ... That's what really keeps me awake at night. That's what gets me upset when I'm saying goodbye to my daughters at home.

AP: What was it like watching the Ilulissat glacier in Greenland come apart?

Orlowski: It was just the two of us (Orlowski and Extreme Ice Survey field coordinator Adam LeWinter) watching this monumental event happen and nobody else was there to observe it or to see it. We felt very fortunate that we were at the right place, at the right time, with the right equipment. ... There's a juxtaposition of emotions that you feel. When you're out there with the camera, you're really excited to capture that and you want that to happen so you can record it and document it, but when you look back at the footage you realize how horrific the story is and what it's actually telling.

AP: James, you were once a climate change skeptic. Were you as skeptical as Sean Hannity?

Balog: Nooo, no no no. Let's not overstate that. No. Look, 25 years ago I thought that maybe there was a lot of hyperbole around this. I thought that the science was based on computer models which I knew at the time were relatively sketchy. Computer models are quite good now. Also like almost everybody else on this planet back then, it never occurred to me that humans were capable of altering the basic physics and chemistry of the planet.

AP: Why do you think this film might have a different impact than other climate change documentaries like "An Inconvenient Truth"?

Orlowski: What James has been able to accomplish is taking this invisible subject matter of climate change and making it visual, making it emotional and so people can see it for the first time and when you can see it, you understand it in a different way.