Penn State professor to host PBS special on climate change April 10

April 08, 2011

Richard Alley, Evan Pugh professor of geosciences in Penn State's College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, is hosting a new PBS special on climate change and sustainable energy called "Earth: The Operators' Manual." The show will debut nationally at 10 p.m. on Sunday, April 10, including on WPSU-TV. Check local listings for other broadcast times.

Alley -- a geologist, contributor to the United Nations panel on climate change and former oil company employee whom Andy Revkin of the New York Times has called “a cross between Woody Allen and Carl Sagan” -- leads the audience through an engaging, one-hour special about climate change and sustainable energy, set to premiere during Earth Month 2011. Alley’s book of the same name, a companion to the program, will be published by W.W. Norton & Co on April 18.

A member of the National Academy of Sciences, Alley was awarded the prestigious Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement in 2009.

“Earth: The Operators’ Manual” (“ETOM”) opens with a thorough grounding in Earth’s climate history and an overview of the current dilemmas, but its main thrust is an upbeat assessment of the many viable sustainable energy options. For previews of the special and additional content, visit at online.

“Of course we share the best climate science, but we know today’s audiences want to see solutions, not just restatements of the problems,” said writer/director Geoff Haines-Stiles, who also has produced Carl Sagan’s Emmy Award-winning Cosmos series, “Creation of the Universe,” and other PBS specials.

To illustrate the evidence and the way forward, “ETOM” takes viewers on a high-definition trip around the globe.

From low-tech solutions to high-tech innovations, “ETOM” shows the wide range of practical options available to meet Earth’s growing need for energy, demonstrating how carbon dioxide emissions are affecting the climate and highlighting locations across the planet where developments are being made on sustainable energy.

“In creating this program, we were awed by the raw power of the Earth and of human ingenuity, and happily surprised by some of the most ambitious goals for clean, low-carbon options,” said producer Erna Akuginow, who directed the critically acclaimed “Childhood” series and the Passport to Knowledge series of electronic field trips.

Is the planet due for an oil change? What tailpipe emissions are impacting the atmosphere and why? What actions could keep Earth operating at peak performance? These are just some of the questions that will be addressed when “Earth: The Operators’ Manual” premieres on PBS on April 10.

"If we approach Earth as if we have an operators' manual, we can avoid climate catastrophes, improve energy security and make millions of good jobs," Alley said.

The program also features Rear Admiral David Titley, a Penn State alumnus, Oceanographer of the Navy and a contributor to the U.S. Department of Defense "Quadrennial Defense Review," which cited climate change as a "threat multiplier," for the first time in 2010.

“ETOM” was produced in high definition and taped worldwide in Xi’an, Shanghai and Beijing (China); São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Ceara and Iguaçu Falls (Brazil); Marrakesh and the Sahara (Morocco); Seville (Spain) and high on the heavily-crevassed snowfield of the Franz Josef Glacier and at “Hell’s Gate” hot springs and geothermal reserve, Rotorua (New Zealand). Production continued across the United States, from New Orleans to the California coast, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii to the Algodones Dunes, near Yuma, Arizona, at the National Renewable Energy Lab, and at the National Ice Core Lab in Denver, Colo.

  • Penn State Professor Richard Alley, above, is hosting a new PBS special on climate change and sustainable energy.

    IMAGE: Penn State
Last Updated April 21, 2011