CLIMATE ADAPTATION

I want to punch climate change in the face. A blog about the interactions between the built environment, people, and nature.


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Posts tagged "skepticism"

Really nice climate communications journal article on how journalists cover climate change. The author’s analyzed key words in coverage from four leading newspapers. They concluded that both U.S. and Spanish journalists increasingly favored using negative language and a tone of uncertainty in their writing - despite the increasing certainty of climate science over time.

[Scientists need] to determine why US climate news continued to employ mitigating language with such frequency, despite ever- strengthening scientific understanding of and consensus around climate change. One possibility is that news reports reflect a natural tendency to hedge scientific information. Consequently, the more scientific information contained in a single article, the higher the epistemic density.

In other words, over the years, climate science has become more certain, while the language of media has increasingly expressed doubt. For example:

Regardless of [journalist’s] intention, by presenting side-by-side comparisons of past IPCC conclusions and either new findings or contrasting observations, the US newspapers created an apparent sense of discrepancy. Readers lacking the background information necessary to understand these seeming discrepancies could have interpreted them as indications of uncertain science.

If I understand the article correctly, the authors conclude that climate deniers have been very effective in changing the perspectives of the journalists.

Another possibility is that politicized attacks on climate science throughout the 1990s and 2000s have resulted in a more cautious presentation of new scientific results by journalists. The influence of contrarians in shaping climate news appears evident in that the two Spanish newspapers referred more frequently to deniers, disagreement, and debate in 2007 than in 2001. Tracking the influence of contrarian arguments on climate reporting would be another important direction for future research and one that would provide valuable feedback to climate communication efforts.

I highly recommend reading this article - or at least give it a good skim. It’s also rare that Taylor & Francis publish big articles like this one for free, so take advantage and download it, here.

Asker Anonymous Asks:
I am a man-caused-Climate Change (Global Warming) skeptic. Where should I start looking for evidence?
climateadaptation climateadaptation Said:

Hi Anon,

Thanks for the question. Skepticism is the basis of science, so I somewhat* respect your point of view.

Note: I’m an adaptation specialist and I manage parts of USAID’s climate adaptation program in over 25 countries. This means I help governments around the world with policies that deal with inevitable impacts from climate change. Basically, I help with natural disaster planning using a bit of climate science, city planning, and environmental law. So, if a city is going to flood, I help a government plan to prevent the flood. If a country’s farming economy is going crash due to drought, I help the government shape a response to prevent crop losses. See what I do, here. Thus, I do not work on carbon or energy policy. I am not an activist. I do not advocate for emissions policies. I’m about as interested in “preventing climate change” as I am interested in becoming the next Dali Lama. That said, this is a very rare instance where I answer a question about carbon, GHGs, and energy. Ok, on to anon’s nice question:

The short answer, anon, is to go here, and probably here. The long (and basic) answer is that you have to contemplate the reason why the earth is warm (vs, say, the moon). The reason is that greenhouse gases (GHGs, e.g., carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, water vapor, etc.) hold a good amount of the sun’s radiation, thus keeping the earth nice and cozy.

Without these gases, the earth would be like the moon - a dead rock that’s freezing and boiling at the same time: +253F (+123C) during the day; -387F (-233C) at night.

There is no disputing this (deniers [unwittingly] admit this when they make arguments about cycles). When there are more gases in the atmosphere, more of the sun’s radiation is held within the atmosphere, creating a warming effect (and very strange changes in weather events).

The vast majority of climate denial arguments have been debunked years ago. For example, here’s a list of common arguments still used today, but answered back in 2004.

In sum, your starting point is: Why is the earth warm? It’s warm due to GHGs in the atmosphere. And humans are adding a never before seen amount of carbon into the atmosphere, which in turn will wreak unbelievable havoc. Deniers bear the rather obscene burden of showing that GHGs do not keep the earth warm, and that increases in carbon do not influence climate. 

I hope those links above help.

All the best,

Michael


*A legitimate skeptic applies critical thinking to systematically pick apart arguments. Skeptics do this by analyzing evidence. No one disagrees that GHGs cause warming (even all oil companies on earth admit this, and are searching for solutions to lower GHG emissions). The burden is on you and other deniers to show that greenhouse gases do not influence the earth’s atmosphere. Frankly, in my opinion, this is a rather boring subject. The more interesting subject is that deniers actually do not comprehend their own arguments. In fact, they’re really arguing against *the solutions* to reducing or preventing climate change, which are to raise the costs of fuels and not pay for environmental harm. This gets into societal ethics, personal responsibility, and market capitalism, which are far more (well, marginally) interesting topics.

How do you manage to stay so calm and civil and not get angry at the politicisation of climate change? It baffles me how newspapers like the Telegraph and political parties like UKIP can have a stance on climate change, and a denialist one at that. It simply isn't a political question, it's a scientific one - the atmosphere doesn't care who you vote for, it's warming up regardless. Do you think we'll ever get past this silly political rubbish and use actual facts to convince the deniers?
climateadaptation climateadaptation Said:

Hey procyonvulpecula!

Good question, but deniers don’t phase me (reactionary environmentalists grind my gears though!). I’ve argued on this blog that I’d rather have climate deniers state their case on the record now, for posterity. My previous post shows this as well - that climate deniers do not have any evidence, but they sure are masters of smoke and diversions.

It’s the same as getting politicians on record as racists and bigots - it will be used against them time and again. Eventually they’ll come around, you just have to be persistent, even keeled, and take the long view (often beyond your generation - the essence of sustainability, right?).

I’d also like to mention that I consider myself a steward rather than an activist. See here for what that means.

Light always leads to truth. I’m trained to convincingly argue the other side of nearly any issue - and deniers simply do not have a single, coherent argument against climate change.

But man, deniers do have very, very powerful arguments against taxation! That is, they deny climate change exists and their reasons almost always are: Big bad government shouldn’t punish energy companies by taxing carbon. After all, where would we be with out them? After all, you have to admit that reading this blog post on your computer or phone cannot happen with out the miracle of fossil fuels. After all, plastic and metals and economic development require burning fossil fuels. After all, socialism doesn’t work. After all, alternative energy is a waste of tax payer money. Most powerful is taxing carbon will raise the cost of gas and electricity - this appeals to everyone.

Do you see what just happened there? If you found yourself arguing against these points, then you’ve fallen into their trap. Don’t fall for it. Instead, paraphrase their argument so as to establish understanding of their point of view and then demand evidence for their points.

Climate change, aka the greenhouse effect, has been known since the 1800s. There is no sky with out greenhouse gasses. To deny that emitting greenhouse gasses does not thicken the sky is to say that the air around us - the atmosphere - does not exist. It is an absurdity.

In fact, every major oil company has a climate change division. Most have active climate change plans aimed at reducing emissions, managing environmental risks, and experimenting with alternatives to reduce climate impacts. Importantly, these are voluntary efforts.* The companies chose to manage and discuss climate risk.

Here are links to the biggest oil and gas companies’ climate pages:

See also, Skeptical Science post Big Oil and the Demise of Crude Climate Change Denial.

The question is: What - exactly - do deniers know that these companies do not? And why are these companies not listening to (or hiring) deniers?

There are more “sophisticated” denier arguments. “It’s snowing,” “the climate has changed before,” “that Michael Mann’s Hockey Stick graph is a hoax,” “it’s the sun,” “it’s the moon,” “the earth is cooling,” “computer models are unreliable,” etc. You can read over 150 of these here.

But none of them have data to back these arguments up (again, see here for a list of common denier arguments and why they’re all wrong [e.g., no evidence]). Most interesting is that almost all of these lead to the same conclusion: big bad government should not tax oil and gas companies (bizzare, right?).

So, to me, when I read a climate denial I mainly see that they’re concerned with taxation - a legitimate concern and a more interesting conversation.

The trouble is falling into traps - avoid responding to their points and learn how to tactfully demand evidence.

m

* If you are discussing this with an informed denier, they may counter that oil companies were forced by the U.S. federal government to create these climate divisions. Thus, 1) Demand for evidence or stfu (remember: Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence and the burden of proof is always upon the claimant). For example, to say that the U.S. forced, say, Petrochina into managing climate change issues would require the denier to show the agreement and/or documents. 2) Most oil companies are not publicly traded on the U.S. boards. Publicly traded companies are required to disclose any environmental risks to their share holders. They do this on a form called a 10-K. In 2010, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) *asked* corporations to *voluntarily* disclose any climate risks to their share holders. Most companies hired experts to examine their operations. The resulting reports showed that many companies are not at risk, and they say this on their 10-Ks. Oil companies did the same, and found their operations are in fact at risk. So, they voluntarily disclose this information, and they did so publicly. In fact, some companies went further and opened up R&D to help reduce emissions and expand into renewable energies like solar and wind. So, don’t get pulled into the counter-argument that companies were “forced” to acknowledge 10-K disclosure. They weren’t.

Now watching: Climate Skepticism & Science’s Role in Political Science. 

A panel of climate and science experts discuss the role science plays in fostering healthy skepticism of political science regarding the climate. The percentage of Americans today who say humans are the primary cause of global warming is much lower than it was in the second term of President George W. Bush.

Skeptics are winning the climate communication battle even as temperatures rise and the number and intensity of floods and droughts increase worldwide. What role does the scientist play in the communication, and what messages will reach the skeptics’ ears?

Michael Mann, professor of Geosciences at Penn State and author of The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars, spoke of the so-called “hockey stick” curve he and his co-authors published more than a decade ago. The curve showed that “recent warming exceeded anything that we’ve seen for at least the past 1,000 years,” Mann explained. The graph became an icon in the climate change debate. “If I’m going to be put in the limelight in the way that our detractors have tried to put me in the limelight,” Mann stated, “I’m going to try to take advantage of that, and the book was part of my effort to do that.”

According to Katharine Hayhoe, professor of Atmospheric Sciences at Texas Tech University and co-author of A Climate for Change, Global Warming Facts for Faith-Based Decisions, climate change is so polarized right now, “that if we, as scientists, are not getting attacked, then we’re not talking to the right people.” Comparing herself to a doctor who finds a red flag for a potential disease, she said, “We’re taking the temperature of the planet, we’re seeing some red flags and we have a responsibility to tell people about that.”

Bill Anderegg, a Ph.D. candidate at Stanford University researching forests and the American West, spoke of a study his team did on climate change, which was widely accepted by scientists. According to Anderegg, the study did two things: “First, we found that there’s an incredibly high agreement behind what the IPCC had articulated as the main components of human-caused climate change. And second, that those who are publicly doubting and expressing their lack of agreement essentially were not very well qualified.” He spoke of his surprise at the immediate backlash: “Suddenly, your e-mail address is across a dozen blogs that are not very friendly.”

Says he is embarrassed for his past anti-science stance.

Australia’s newly appointed Minister for Energy and Resources, Gary Gray admitted he was once a fierce climate sceptic, but now says he is embarrassed by his former position on climate science.

Asked on ABC TV’s Lateline program, Gray admitted that he had once branded climate science as a global conspiracy, as pop science, and he had attended the inaugural meeting of the Lavoisier Group, an Australian group dedicated to repudiating climate science.

“I was a vocal climate skeptic,” Gray said. “I said things that frankly embarrass me when I hear them played back.”

He added later: “I attended the inaugural meeting of the Lavoisier group. I count as friends members of that organization. I just don’t agree with them any more.”

Gray said there was “no doubt” about the climate science and there was undeniable link between carbon pollution and industrial activity, which the world should address and “we can address.”

As the Minster for Resources, Gray – a former executive with Woodsdide Petroleum – will oversee projects worth several hundred billion of dollars in coal mining and liquefied natural gas.

Via Renew Economy

Answering Climate Change Skeptics, Naomi Oreskes

A presentation based off of her recent book, Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscure the Truth about Climate Change. Naomi Oreskes, author and professor of history and science studies, University of California, San Diego.

From the University of Rhode Island’s Spring 2010 Vetlesen Lecture Series, People and Planet Global Environmental Change.

Asker nturlbruntt Asks:
I had a client tell me the other day that we're not headed towards a warm climate, but an ice age. The planet has to warm up in order to cool down. (or so he claimed). Is there any truth to this?
climateadaptation climateadaptation Said:

Hi nturlbruntt!

Thanks for your note and absolutely not! The earth is at its hottest point in over 11,000 years.

image

Your client believes a rumor from the 1970s, one that won’t die apparently. It was dismissed, debunked, defrocked, and deblorgged decades ago, but has resurfaced as a rather brilliant right-wing political talking point.

97% of climate scientists agree the earth is warming. This is the highest agreement in any of the sciences in all of history. Second, the vast majority of scientists in the 1970s agreed global warming was occurring, that humans are causing it by emitting greenhouse gases, and that the earth is in big, big trouble.

Back in 2005, climate scientists at Real Climate took the time to discuss the origins of the rumor, show who restarted it, and describe why it’s completely false. You an read their post, here.

In 2008, the American Meteorological Society published a special article on this myth. It’s a great read, very short. It describes the history of the myth (it also gives a glimpse at how scientists suck at PR).

Lastly, Skeptical Science ranks it as the 11th most discussed myth. They published a simplified, easy to read summary of the myth called: “What were climate scientists predicting in the 1970s?, which shows that scientists back then were very worried about warming.

At the end of the day, your client is acting as proxy for the fossil fuel industry. This may sound crazy, but his/her’s real argument is that oil and gas should not be regulated, that they should be able to pollute without regulations. People who argue that that the world is cooling, instead of warming, are really saying that there is no need to regulate pollution or emissions.

What’s even more bizarre is that they may not even realize this.

Naomi Oreskes discusses how this happened in her book, Merchants of Doubt, which shows that oil and gas industries hired the same public relations experts that defended the tobacco industry in the 80s. Recall that the tobacco industry - and the politicians they donated to - denied that cigarettes caused cancer (seriously), and they successfully perpetuated that myth for decades.

And that, my friend, is how an industry and politicians manipulate public opinion.

Cheers!

Michael

Four climate communication’s specialists present this excellent panel session at the 2011 American Geophysical Union conference.

  • Susan Joy Hassol director of of the non-profit science and outreach project, Climate Communications, starts this session on communication with a casual-yet-important observation that the public rarely reacts to new information unless there is an incentive.
  • The second speaker, John Cook who runs Skeptical Science presents practical tips for scientists respond to climate deniers and other media backlash. His approach is to provide scientific evidence to combat myths, yet he’s quite aware that this is not very effective.

  • Edward Maibach, who I’ve worked with in the past, runs George Mason’s 4C program (Center for Climate Change Communication), discusses a three-part strategy that anyone, even non-scientists can employ for effective communications: Trust, short messaging, and audience research.

I think this is one of the better walks through the problems of communicating climate science with the general public. From the description:

Addressing issues related to effective public ‘climate communications’ may require including subjects outside of one’s field of expertise.

This discussion explores real and perceived challenges regarding how to bridge the gap between expertise and relevant related cause and effect relationships to enhance effective climate communications without abandoning scientific integrity.

This delves into the differences between science, scientific opinion and general opinion. To convey the physical reality of climate change, it helps to convey ‘what climate change means’ to people in their everyday lives. For this reason, scientists need to consider how to discuss related issues, while maintaining scientific integrity.

On that note, this wraps up Climate Science Communications Week at Climate Adaptation! What did you think? Should I do another week to a single topic? What did you learn? Did you find videos were mo’ beddah than my text posts? Send your feedback to my ask box or to: http://climateadaptation.tumblr.com/submit

The Center for Climate Change Communication (4C) conducts unbiased research and surveys of the public’s perception of climate change. The surveys follow strict scientific design standards and analysis, and the results are published free to the public. I worked with Edward Maibach, the director of 4C last year, on a few interesting projects last year.

More About 4C:

We use social science research methods – experiments, surveys, in-depth interviews and other methods – to find ways of effectively engaging the public and policy makers in the problem, and in considering and enacting solutions. Social science research has played important roles in many social change campaigns over the past several decades, including reducing smoking and littering, and increasing seat belt use and recycling. 

4C’s Mission

Our mission is to conduct unbiased public engagement research - and to help government agencies, non-profit organizations, and companies apply the results of this research - so that collectively, we can stabilize our planet’s life sustaining climate.

4C is the premier source for these types of surveys. Their reports are easy to read and comprehend, and think-tanks and the public use 4C’s findings on a regular basis.

Here is a sampling of their reports

  • The Climate Change in the American Mind Series - Fall 2012In Fall 2012, we conducted our latest national survey on Americans’ climate change and energy beliefs, attitudes, policy support, and behavior. The first report focused on the 7% of voters who were undecided about the upcoming Presidential election.  The majority of these… Read More
  • Climate Change in the Indian MindIn November and December 2011, members of our research team conducted a study investigating the Indian public’s climate change awareness, beliefs, attitudes, policy support, and behaviors. A total of 4031 people, from both rural and urban areas, responded to the survey…. Read More
  • The Political Benefits of Taking a Pro-Climate Stand in 2012This brief report draws upon data from a nationally representative survey conducted in March 2012 (Climate Change in the American Mind) and other research to investigate the question: On balance, will candidates for political office benefit or be harmed by talking about and… Read More
  • The Climate Change in the American Mind Series, Spring 2012In March 2012, we conducted a national survey on Americans’ climate change and energy beliefs, attitudes, policy support, and behavior. The first report shows that a large majority of Americans say they personally experienced an extreme weather event or natural disaster in… Read More

It’s Climate Science Communications Week at Climate Adaptation!   For the entire week of Feb. 18 - 23, I’ll cover how climate change is discussed by the media, scientists, researchers, academics, and politicians. If you have sources or ideas on communicating climate change, send to: http://climateadaptation.tumblr.com/submit

In this popular and entertaining TED Talk, high school science teacher Tyler DeWitt makes the case that science should be fun.

Take his argument with a grain of salt. He uses (abuses) the ad hominen and straw man fallacies to make his points - e.g., by making fun of something else, his points become justified. He commits classical errors in rhetoric and argumentation. Politicians do this all the time. They point to something, make fun of it, and conclude that their position is the right one that you should support.

It may be true that “science is hard” to understand, and it may be true that “science is hard” to teach. And I agree, being a more creative educator is much more effective than rote learning strategies. But making the case that “science should be fun” by employing disparaging argumentation is, well, unscientific…

skeptv:

Tyler DeWitt: Hey science teachers — make it fun

High school science teacher Tyler DeWitt was ecstatic about a lesson plan on bacteria (how cool!) — and devastated when his students hated it. The problem was the textbook: it was impossible to understand. He delivers a rousing call for science teachers to ditch the jargon and extreme precision, and instead make science sing through stories and demonstrations. (Filmed at TEDxBeaconStreet.)

by TED Talks Director.

It’s Climate Science Communications Week at Climate Adaptation!   For the entire week of Feb. 18 - 23, I’ll cover how climate change is discussed by the media, scientists, researchers, academics, and politicians. If you have sources or ideas on communicating climate change, send to: http://climateadaptation.tumblr.com/submit

Do politicians have an ethical obligation to tell the truth in climate change? Government officials have been told by the most prominent, well respected scientists in the world. Donald Brown attempts to push the press and media to ask politicians 10 specific questions.

This video explains why politicians may not ethically rely upon their own uninformed opinion about climate change science as justification for failing to support policies that reduce the threat of climate change. It also argues that the press should ask politicians questions about their opinions about climate change science. Via Donald Brown, scholar of Ethics and Climate.

It’s Climate Science Communications Week at Climate Adaptation!  For the entire week of Feb. 18 - 23, I’ll cover how climate change is discussed by the media, scientists, researchers, academics, and politicians. If you have sources or ideas on communicating climate change, send to: http://climateadaptation.tumblr.com/submit

First part is excellent and topical for this week’s theme of science communication. Here, researcher Nate Johnson discusses how scientists can alienate people, and uses the example of neuroscientist Sam Harris. Clever analysis on the pitfalls of science communications.  

Via skeptv

It’s Climate Science Communications Week at Climate Adaptation!  For the entire week of Feb. 18 - 23, I’ll cover how climate change is discussed by the media, scientists, researchers, academics, and politicians. If you have sources or ideas on communicating climate change, send to: http://climateadaptation.tumblr.com/submit

Asker dasistalles Asks:
First off, I always enjoy reading updates on your tumblah, it is awesome!! I have a close friend who likes to debate about the whether climate change does or does not exist (he thinks it is mostly "hype"). I finally decided to find some good resources about climate change that I can recommend to them. Do you have any suggestions?
climateadaptation climateadaptation Said:

Hey dasistalles!

Thanks for your nice note.

I love good arguments. I went to law school and am trained to argue “both sides,” which can be really fun. In fake court, I once successfully defended Exxon Mobil against impoverished indigenous Alaskans who’s island is sinking due to sea level rise. They’ve since made a movie about Kivalina v Exxon.

The point is you have to understand the other side - empathy is key.

There are a lot of arguments against climate change. Most are terrible. The common thread, though, is very strong and really difficult to argue against - that new regulations will cost families’ money.

You have to be empathetic to this point. Their argument is really about stopping the cost of electricity and gasoline from going up.

Look, we enviros can dream and be idealistic about raising the price of a barrel of oil. But in reality, higher prices are terrible, terrible options for families, especially the 47%.

Challenge a fellow enviro how they square raising the price of electricity via free markets with government subsidies for education, PBS, and Planned Parenthood, etc. Why is it OK to raise energy costs, but not OK to take away services? It’s idealism vs reality, and many activists (in my experience) don’t understand this.

Energy is expensive, and families (the 47% who already depend on gvt assistance) really do suffer if the price of energy goes up even a little bit. Navigating this in school is exhilarating, but it utterly falls apart in the real world. So, yeah. It’s an up hill battle if you’re stuck discussing solutions with your friend.

Besides hurting families, some of the best arguments I’ve heard deal with: the history of the planet, sun spots, something called ‘oscillations’, and the tried and true big winter snow storm.

"The planet’s climate is cyclical! We’ve had ice ages and heat waves many times before!" is a powerful argument and trips up most environmentalists. After all, if this current trend is a “cycle” then why regulate fuel at all? Clever stuff.

This is the bottom line: your friend has only one task - prove that carbon atoms do not trap heat. That’s it. That’s the only thing s/he has to prove. All of the other arguments fundamentally depend on this premise being false.

Get your opponent to stay on point. Get them to argue hard facts and stay out of the trap of debating bleeding-heart fantasies.

They absolutely must prove carbon does not trap heat in order for every other argument against climate change to be true. To do so, make sure they agree first that earth is warming (they will). Where you’ll disagree is why it’s warming - earth cycles or humans. Again, if it’s cycles, then there’s no need to regulate energy. If it’s humans, then there is a need to regulate energy, but then you run up against the families argument…

If your friend can prove that carbon does not trap heat, not only will they win a Nobel, they can then go on to blame it on cycles, sun spots, earth’s rotation, the Myans, god’s jealous vengeance, etc. So, get your friend to research what carbon atoms do, and try to have fun with it.

OK, OK, on to your question. The best resource for these types of short-term bursts is Skeptical Science’s “Arguments from Global Warming Skeptics" page. They’ve been cataloging skeptic/denier arguments for several years now, and their database of arguments is the best I’ve ever come across. I’m sure that several arguments from their pages will look very, very familiar to you. In fact, I’d bet that your friend has repeated a good handful of them!

I also put together a store of 100% climate change books. I update it often to help everyone from beginners to advanced researchers.

Hope that helps!

Michael

Watch Climate of Doubt on PBS. See more from FRONTLINE.

Happening now! PBS Frontline’s “Climate of Doubt”  streaming online

FRONTLINE explores the massive shift in public opinion on climate change

Four years ago, climate change was a hot issue and politicians from both sides seemed poised to act. Today public opinion on the climate issue has cooled considerably. Politicians either ignore it or proclaim their skepticism. What’s behind this massive reversal? On Oct 23, FRONTLINE goes inside the organizations that fought the scientific establishment to shift the direction of the climate debate.

Click here to watch

Also, PBS NewsHour folks run a fantastic tumblr. And they have solid climate change coverage: Check ‘em out.

Finally! This airs TONIGHT!!! PBS Frontline’s “Climate of Doubt" will stream online tonight at 10pm EST. 

FRONTLINE explores the massive shift in public opinion on climate change

Four years ago, climate change was a hot issue and politicians from both sides seemed poised to act. Today public opinion on the climate issue has cooled considerably. Politicians either ignore it or proclaim their skepticism. What’s behind this massive reversal? On Oct 23, FRONTLINE goes inside the organizations that fought the scientific establishment to shift the direction of the climate debate.

Click here to watch at 10pmEST

Also, PBS NewsHour folks run a fantastic tumblr. And they have solid climate change coverage: Check ‘em out.

UPDATE: FRONTLINE archives its shows, so you’ll be able to watch it later.