It's not your imagination that heat waves, hurricanes, floods and droughts are occurring more frequently and with greater intensity. Global warming is at the root of the problem, but its impact goes beyond the environment. As the PBS special "Extreme Realities: Severe Weather, Climate Change, and Our National Security" explains, "severe weather is the new normal," and it is having catastrophic domino effect on the geopolitical landscape.

Part of the "Journey to Planet Earth" series, the PBS program illustrates the far-reaching ramifications of weather events, ranging from floods in Pakistan to extreme heat and wildfires in Russia to melting ice in the Arctic Circle, all of which serve as a wakeup call to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

"To our knowledge, 'Extreme Realities' is the first documentary that clearly shows the link between extreme weather, climate change, and threats to our national security," says writer-director Hal Weiner. He and his producer wife Marilyn began thinking about the issue after they were targeted by suicide bombers while filming an episode of "Journey To Planet Earth" in Bangladesh in 2001. "That was when we started to investigate how environmental pressures can lead to unexpected acts of extreme violence," he relates.

Of all the spotlighted examples, "we believe the sequence associated with drilling in the Arctic and Greenpeace's response provides the most compelling reason for turning away from fossil fuels," Weiner notes, adding that there were many more incidents that he wasn't able to present. "Two stories that we researched and scouted but did not include in the documentary because of time constraints are the dangers of a major hurricane hitting the Port of Houston, which would destroy a major portion of our country's refineries, and why the melting of the glaciers in the Andes will result in tens of millions of environmental refugees fleeing north because of the lack of water for drinking and irrigation."

Environmental activist actor Matt Damon narrates the special, which premieres Dec. 15. "Matt has been the host/narrator of 'Journey To Planet Earth' since 2001 — 10 episodes. He became involved thanks to contacts we generated while producing feature films ('K2,' 'The Imagemaker,' and 'Family Business')," Weiner notes.

Although the documentary includes a few rays of hope — examples of things being done to counteract the effects of climate change, Weiner remains pessimistic about the current state of the planet. "Marilyn tends to be more optimistic because she doesn't believe people will continue to allow politicians and the fossil fuel industry to destroy the Earth. I agree with scientists that say that we are past the tipping point and that the near future is extremely bleak," he says, adding that we need to "stop electing people to Congress who are either Luddites and/or accept money from organizations that perpetuate lies about the reality of climate change and global warming."

Weiner believes "Extreme Realities" has two major messages, both interconnected. "Climate change is real and it affects society in many unexpected ways," he says. "And it's time that people insist that their elected officials act responsibly rather than turn a serious global challenge into a partisan wedge issue."

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