New documentary explores the feedback loops amplifying global warming

Earth Emergency, narrated by Richard Gere, premieres Wednesday, December 29 on PBS

fire burning in Amazon rainforest understory vegetation

Fire burning in Amazon rainforest understory vegetation.

photo by Illuminati Filmes

While climate change is now a broadly recognized phenomenon, the environmental feedback loops that are amplifying and accelerating the process are less well understood. Earth Emergency, a new documentary to air on PBS, explains how warming caused by human activity is setting in motion Earth’s own natural warming mechanisms, releasing additional greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, and further heating up the planet.

Originating from a conversation between Woodwell Distinguished Visiting Scientist Dr. William Moomaw and the film’s producers, Earth Emergency features several Woodwell Scientists including founder Dr. George Woodwell, Arctic Program Director Dr. Sue Natali, Tropics Program Director Dr. Mike Coe, and President Dr. Philip Duffy.

Earth Emergency film stills of four feedback loops

The film uses captivating illustrations and graphics, stunning footage, and interviews with leading scientists to examine the crucial role feedback loops play in climate change. It conveys the urgency of stopping these cycles, letting natural systems remove carbon and preserving the delicate balance necessary to maintain Earth’s temperature. Narrated by Richard Gere and featuring the Dalai Lama and Greta Thunberg, Earth Emergency premieres on Wednesday, December 29, at 8:00 p.m. ET.

“Most people I know or encounter haven’t even heard of feedback loops or tipping points,” says Greta Thunberg. “But they are so crucial to understanding how the world works. We have such lack of respect for nature and for the environment. We just think that things will work out in the end. But we cannot solve the climate emergency without taking these feedback loops into account and without really understanding them. So that is a crucial step.”

Earth Emergency focuses on four feedback loops—explaining how warming in forests, permafrost, the atmosphere, and the poles work together to accelerate dangerous, amplifying cycles. The film was presented recently to the Members of the UK House of Parliament, and as part of HRH Prince of Wales’ Terra Carta Action Forum in Glasgow during COP26. The Smithsonian Museum of Natural History also held a summer film and discussion series based on the film.

Earth Emergency will stream simultaneously with broadcast and be available on all station-branded PBS platforms, including and the PBS Video app, available on iOS, Android, Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, Samsung Smart TV and Chromecast. The film will also be made available to astronauts on the International Space Station. For more information, check local listings on and the PBS Video app.

It will remain free to stream on and the PBS Video app through January 28, after which it’s member-restricted. It’s also available for viewing on other streaming services.