Climate Change Q & A with Bear Grylls

Bear Grylls isn’t a climate scientist, but in his travels around the world as an adventurer, survivalist and host of numerous nature shows, he has witnessed firsthand our planet’s changing climate.

This is especially true in a new series Grylls hosts and narrates on the National Geographic channel called “Hostile Planet.” While the show does not focus on climate change per se, it doesn’t shy away from portraying how our world is rapidly changing and how those changes affect various animal species.

A young female Polar Bear on the island of Svalbard wanders the meltwater channels on the Sea Ice. It’s a time of year when hunting becomes difficult as the pack ice begins to melt. Image courtesy National Geographic/Tom Hugh Jones.

The series travels to different regions of the world, and depicts the new challenges the animal kingdom now face. Each episode features a different biome: mountains, oceans, grasslands, jungles, deserts and polar regions – and navigates through the most brutal conditions endured by various species, such as punishing weather, intense competition for resources and constant predator-vs.-prey conflict.

The photography and film-making provide stunning and never-before-seen animal interactions, as viewers have come to expect from Nat Geo. However, ground-breaking camera techniques show animal behaviors from new perspectives, including a jaguar capturing a giant caiman crocodile in Africa and barnacle geese chicks base jumping from cliffs in Iceland. The final episode of the series, “Polar” which premieres on Monday, May 6, shows the first-ever filmed hunt where an Arctic wolf pursued a muskox. But perhaps most heart-stopping is a leopard seal’s prolonged pursuit of a young penguin, straggling behind his raft.

“Polar” also depicts how the Arctic and Antarctic are changing faster than at any time in recorded history. As the climate warms, difficult days loom ahead for the most cold-adapted.

Universe Today had the opportunity to ask Grylls about his experiences making “Hostile Planet.”

Universe Today: In all your travels around the world, what have been the most obvious and devastating examples of climate change?

Bear Grylls: What’s unique about “Hostile Planet” is that we have filmed 82 shoots around the world in six disparate, hostile environments to show viewers how difficult it is to adapt to a continuously changing planet that’s punctuated by climate change. In each location within each habitat — jungles, mountains, the Poles, oceans, grasslands and deserts – we witness the ravages of climate change. It’s what all these habitats had in common — their landscapes, their waters, are all changing, and all the species that live there will either adapt to survive or they will perish. Fortunately, it’s not all doom and gloom. “Hostile Planet” shows that despite the odds, life still finds a way.

Cameraman David Reichert filming the Emperor Penguins’ march to the ice edge at the Cape Washington Emperor Penguin colony. (National Geographic/Tanja Bayer)

UT: What do you see in the animal world that could be helpful for humans to cope with a changing world?

Grylls: When it comes down to it, humans adapt faster to our changing world than animals, which strikes me as unfair because we’re also the ones causing the planet to change. But what I keep seeing over and over again in the animal world is just the sheer resilience of animals in striving to adapt to their increasingly brutal surroundings, and I think that’s always a lesson humans can take away from them.

UT: What was your most memorable experience in the making of “Hostile Planet?”

Grylls: There are endless stories that will stick with me for years to come. I have had the great privilege of being up close and personal with a breathtaking variety of wildlife during the filming of the series, although I have to say the ones that stood out the most to me are the ones that have rarely been filmed. For example, in our finale episode, premiering this Monday, we filmed wolves hunting musk oxen, an event so rare that it’s never before been captured on camera.

A pack of Arctic wolves isolate a musk ox cow, and cooperate to pull her down. Image courtesy National Geographic.

UT: Was there anything you learned personally during the creation of this show that you will carry forward?

Grylls: “Hostile Planet” is a series unlike any other that I’ve seen or have been involved in before in that it shines a new light on how brutal and unforgiving life can be in the harshest environments at the worst of times. Because of the devastating effects of climate change, this planet is not the same as it was 50 years ago or 50 years before that. The lengths animals must go to survive is beyond extraordinary. I’m a survivalist, but these animals make me look a rookie. It’s quite the humbling experience, and that’s something I’ll carry forward forever.