What We're Watching: ICE ON FIRE

The opening sequence of Leila Conner’s 2019 documentary ICE ON FIRE follows a scientist who collects air samples from a remote mountain in Colorado. While collecting air seems incredibly simple, the rest of the documentary undermines this simplicity by demonstrating that even though air may be invisible, changes in that air can have a complex impact on the rest of the planet.


The beginning of ICE ON FIRE underscores that climate change is real and concerning. The documentary focuses on the unbiased facts of the climate crisis by spotlighting scientific professionals who explain its causes and effects, such as organism migrations and curving of the jetstream. Scientists at the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change also provide a carbon budget: humans can emit a total of 800 gigatons of carbon dioxide in total in order to keep warming below 2°C and avoid the most drastic effects of climate change.


The documentary pairs scientific evidence with climate change images from around the world. For example, one sequence follows a firefighter who discusses the unprecedented speed and devastation of the Santa Rosa fires. Another poignant image shows a long bridge in Iceland which extends over miles of land. This bridge was once a necessary roadway over a body of water, yet, due to climate change, the river has completely changed its course. As one local puts it, this bridge is a “symbol of the past”.