by Garry Emmons
Last spring, when a Hawaiian observatory reported that carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere had reached their highest point in some 3 million years, many people concluded that climate change was unstoppable. But Dan Abbasi (MBA 1998), for one, isn't giving up.
"Human-caused climate change is already killing 150,000 people annually, according to the World Health Organization," says Abbasi, an executive producer of an eight-part, $17 million documentary series on climate change called Years of Living Dangerously. The production, to be broadcast on Showtime in spring 2014, "will tell the climate change story to the broader public, especially those who may not be convinced of the issue or understand its urgency."
Working with fellow executive producers James Cameron, Jerry Weintraub, and 60 Minutes veterans David Gelber and Joel Bach, Abbasi secured backing from HBS alumni Bill Bowes (MBA 1952), Chris Hohn (MBA 1993), Jeremy Grantham (MBA 1966), Amos Hostetter (MBA 1961), and Susan and Steve Mandel (both MBA 1982). The series includes Don Cheadle, Matt Damon, Harrison Ford, Olivia Munn, and Arnold Schwarzenegger as on-the-ground correspondents who visit ordinary Americans on the front lines of hurricanes, droughts, heat waves, and wildfires. They also travel with scientists to investigate human causation of climate change.
Dan Abbasi (MBA 1998) hopes to enlist the HBS alumni community in the political movement for climate change. He calls his fellow alumni "probably the most powerful network I belong to."
Abbasi has long focused on the transition to a low-carbon economy. He is the managing director of GameChange Capital LLC, a private-equity firm cofounded with Hohn to back companies offering scalable and profitable solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. A former senior adviser at the EPA, Abbasi is also a former associate dean at Yale, where he wrote Americans and Climate Change: Closing the Gap between Science and Action.
"To get action," he says, "we must build public pressure, even a social movement; we hope this series will be one more catalyst for that. Our companion website will offer solutions and ways for viewers to voice concern and to take action. For HBS alumni, we intend to address any doubts or questions about climate change through an online platform and events at HBS clubs. We also plan to organize a meeting of interested HBS alumni with Washington's top policymakers. "As much as any group," Abbasi concludes, "HBSers have the influence and leadership capacity to make a difference on this issue."
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