Craig Leeson: Climate change is humanity’s biggest challenge yet

The message is simple: the climate crisis is everyone's issue. We must protect and restore our life support systems before they are completely compromised.


Our ice sheets are melting. Entire ecosystems that support our livelihood are compromised. Wildfires are on the rise. Glaciers, the world’s largest reserves of freshwater, are under threat. Our global diversity is endangered, and without biodiversity, humanity has no future.

“Not only is climate change accelerating, but human activity sits at the root of this phenomenon,” said Craig Leeson, Filmmaker of A Plastic Ocean and The Last Glaciers, and a sustainability partner of BNP Paribas, at a recent BNP Paribas event. Leeson shared his first-hand learnings about the impact of climate change on our natural habitat he observed while filming The Last Glaciers.

Filmed over four years and across 12 countries, The Last Glaciers is a powerful new documentary due for release in 2021 that sheds light on the impact of climate change, specifically on the world’s largest freshwater reserves, glaciers, which are currently under threat.

Did you know?
The richest 1% of the global population emit more than double the CO2 than the poorest 50%.

Around two thirds of global emissions are linked to private households, mainly in the global north. So, the richest of us are contributing the greatest amount, and it’s affecting people in poverty who are contributing very little to this problem.

The burning of fossil fuels for electricity, heating, transportation, forestry and agriculture is the culprit of greenhouse gases that are contributing to the warming of the planet.

Fossil fuels are in turn directly impacting our glaciers, subsequently warming our planet and melting ice at unprecedented rates worldwide. 

An outstanding 70% of freshwater in the world is stored in the Arctic ice sheet. If it melts, the sea water goes up by 50 to 60 meters and increases coastal erosion and elevates storm surge as warming air and ocean temperatures create more frequent and intense coastal storms such as hurricanes and typhoons. And when the glaciers disappear, we will lose 30% of our drinking water. Our freshwater.

Why are glaciers important?

Located all over the earth, particularly in high altitude mountains like the Alps, Andes and Himalayas, glaciers are a crucial element to the world’s ecosystem. They provide a scientific record of how climate has changed over time and the extent to which the planet is rapidly warming.

The ice acts like a protective cover over the Earth and our oceans, reflecting heat back up into the atmosphere and keeping the Earth cool. As enormous storage devices, they also provide water downstream for a variety of purposes from manufacturing to agriculture to livestock to hydration for humans. 

As our ice sheets melt, scientists are becoming increasingly frustrated that their data is largely being ignored by governments around the world. “Not many people realise how important glaciers are to our life support systems,” said Leeson. “Glaciers take hundreds of thousands of years to form and once they are gone, they don’t’ come back, at least not for thousands of years.”

The Third Pole

Over the past four years, the mountains in the Himalayas, also known as the Third Pole, has lost as much as 25% of their ice. And there’s worse to come, according to ICIMOD, a scientific group in Asia that comprises of the eight countries that border the Himalayas.

Through the filming of The Last Glaciers, Leeson captures valuable insights from leading climate scientists around the world. 

Leeson explains, “If we keep burning fossil fuels, and it keeps melting at this current rate, the Himalayas will lose 75% of their ice by the end of the century. That directly impacts and is already impacting two billion people, not just within the Himalayan watershed basin but all around the world.”

Entire communities already face uncertain futures as the relationship between earth, water and our changing climate severely impact ecosystems, agriculture, water systems, infrastructure and human health. The life support systems we all rely on for daily survival are beginning to fail.

Hope for the future

Although we are currently headed towards a 3°C to 5°C increase in temperature, Leeson remains hopeful that the world can tackle the climate crisis if everyone at all levels – individuals, communities, companies and governments – can act together.

The bottom line is: if we don’t address global warming now, we will not survive the changes that will occur on earth.

Watch the replay videos from the event: The Last Glaciers – An audience with filmmaker Craig Leeson on Climate Change.

APAC / EMEA edition


Americas edition


About Craig Leeson
Craig Leeson is an award-winning filmmaker, storyteller and advocate for sustainability. He is a sustainability partner for BNP Paribas, and also the director, explorer/narrator, writer and executive producer of the multi-award winning documentary feature film A Plastic Ocean (released 2017) and The Last Glaciers (due for release 2021).

Craig has become a sought-after expert on the full impact of single-use plastics on not only the environment, but also our health, and now consults with governments, agencies and corporations on how to reduce our addiction to single-use plastics.