Years of Living Dangerously Recap: Episode 4, Ice and Brimstone

It was another heated week on Years of Living Dangerously as The Vampire Diaries star Ian Somerhalder sat down with an evangelical Christian father and daughter who fundamentally disagree about climate change. 60 Minutes correspondent Lesley Stahl explored Arctic oil and gas development amidst ice melts and rising seas. For a refresher, or to meet some of the experts we saw again this week (spoiler alert!), please see our recaps of Episodes 1, 2 and 3.

Stories of the Week

Under the Ice

Despite the dangers and challenges inherent to working in the Arctic, there is an international race going on to develop massive oil and gas reserves lying beneath. (You may recall Shell's failed efforts to do so in 2012. Those fossil fuel reserves are now more accessible because of how much the Arctic sea ice has melted; since 1979, the summer melt season has extended by a full month. Chasing Ice and other films have included stunning footage of Manhattan-sized icebergs falling into the sea from Greenland's ice sheet and massive meltwater lakes as the sheet melts from the surface.

Stahl heads to Greenland, joined by Marco Tedesko, a polar researcher from the National Science Foundation, to see those lakes and glaciers. The rate of melting in Greenland is astonishing - here's a jaw dropping stat of the week - "in 2012, the ice that melted in Greenland and flowed into the ocean equaled the amount of water that flows over Niagara Falls for 5 straight years." With all that water comes sea level rise - a threat to millions of coastal dwellers around the world.

As the Arctic melts, bright white ice sheets become gorgeous sapphire lakes - but that deep blue absorbs more heat from the sun than bright white. (Think black tee vs. white tee on a sunny, hot summer's day and you get the idea.) Warmer water creates more cracks in glaciers and ice, triggering more melting and higher sea levels.

Stahl interviews Greenland's Prime Minister Aleqa Hammond to ask why Hammond's economically struggling country (among the not-as-struggling Russia, United States, Canada and Iceland) is so eager to allow fossil fuel companies to search for oil and gas in their surrounding seas despite environmentalists' concerns. Her answer: there are trillions of dollars at stake that could impact all 57,000 Greenlanders.

Greenpeace's Save the Arctic campaign, in particular, continues to raise those concerns, though. Last week, Greenpeace activists were on hand to greet the very first barrels of Arctic oil arriving in Rotterdam from Russian producer Gazprom - this debate is one that is only going to get hotter.

Preacher's Daughter

Ian Somerhalder, an actor and environmentalist who grew up in Louisiana, introduces us to an evangelical Christian father and daughter at odds over climate change. This particular evangelical father happens to be Rick Joyner, senior pastor of the huge MorningStar Fellowship Church in North Carolina. Joyner's evangelical daughter, Anna Jane, is an environmental professional and part of the Creation Care movement. To help spread the word about the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign, Anna Jane is reaching out to pastors to bring the politically powerful evangelical movement to the climate change table, and her well-known father would be the ultimate "get."

"The cost of not doing anything is a hundred times greater than the cost of doing something."

Sierra's campaign to the EPA urges adoption of proposed new standards for US coal-fired plants, which matters greatly since in 2012, emissions from coal accounted for more carbon emissions (43 percent) than all the cars in the world. (Another amazing statistic of the week!)

Rick Joyner remains deeply skeptical of the science throughout (including that shared by Katharine Hayhoe of Episode 1 and Bob Inglis of Episode 2, as well as so-called converted skeptic, scientist Richard Muller), but by journey's end, he agrees to let his daughter Anna speak to his congregation about climate change and share her message of environmental stewardship.

Voices from Episode 4

  • "The cost of not doing anything is a hundred times greater than the cost of doing something." - Ian Somerhalder
  • "Climate disruption is not just political; it's a moral, justice and spiritual issue. If and when Christians engage, there will be great deal of healing with land, each other, and God. I ask you not to sit this one out." - Anna Jane Joyner, environmentalist
  • "It's important to let these environmentalists know that this is not a museum. This is not new frontier where you can just make a new treaty and say that this is not to be touched. People live here. We have a word to say. If we are not to become victimized in this climate change issue, it's important that we find other options for income as a people." - Aleqa Hammond, Prime Minister of Greenland
  • On scientists' advisement of fossil fuel companies: "It is tremendously risky to go after all of that oil and natural gas, but if we willingly choose to cross the line, don't say you haven't been warned." - Heidi Cullen, scientist

To Take Action and Learn More

On the influence of Big Energy on policy: "Fossil Fuel Political Contributions Have Grown 11,761 Percent"

On the myth that renewable energy sources aren't ready for prime time: "Solar Mythbusting"

On Arctic oil and gas drilling: "Arctic Offshore Drilling Begins"

To check out Sierra's Beyond Coal campaign, see here or go to the Years of Living Dangerously site.

To share your story about how you've been impacted by climate change with the Years of Living Dangerously team, let them know here.

To discuss the series on social media, join us in conversation with @YearsofLiving on Instagram, @YEARSofLiving on Twitter or @YearsofLiving on Facebook using #YEARSproject.

Check out previous Years of Living Dangerously recaps!


Episode 2, The End of the Woods

Episode 3, The Surge

Episode 4, Ice and Brimstone

Episode 5, True Colors

Episode 6, Winds of Change

Episode 7, Revolt, Rebuild, Renew

Episode 8, A Dangerous Future

Episode 9, Moving a Mountain