New Doc Reminds Us That the Earliest Climate-Change Scientists Have Been Sounding the Alarm for Decades


Here’s a new variation on the despairing climate-change doc: Luc Jacquet’s Antarctica: Ice and the Sky showcases a scientist who has been sounding the alarm about carbon emissions and the melting ice caps for so long that now he’s well over eighty and has passed a lifetime watching the world not bother to solve the problem.

The film opens with aged Claude Lorius walking through an unearthly tunnel of blue and white in the heart of a glacier, the persistent drip and crackle around him evidence that even this mighty ice-cave is impermanent. Then he gazes at a barren valley that, via CGI, fills back up with glacial ice, taking us back in time just sixty years, to Lorius’s first visit to Antarctica, in 1956, which we see in a generous sampling of vintage footage.

Lorius describes the thrill and the hardship, the beauty and the thrill of discovery. Lorius’s teams were at the cutting edge of the core-sample process that revealed, by drilling into glaciers, the record of the composition of the atmosphere in centuries and millennia past. In subsequent expeditions, the evidence becomes clear: As the amount of carbon in the atmosphere increases, so does the temperature.

Much of the film consists of last-century scientists marveling at tubes of ancient ice or drilling for such samples. A couple of scenes have some power: a montage of Lorius testifying on TV about the dangers we face, all the way back in the 1980s; the closing monologue, wherein he wonders about the world his children’s children will inherit. The film itself is more a record than a narrative: proof to the future that, yeah, we knew.

Antarctica: Ice and the Sky

Directed by Luc Jacquet

Music Box Films

Opens January 20, Cinema Village