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Forget Vampires! Why Ian Somerhalder’s Latest Project Will ‘Scare the S— out of You’

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Ian Somerhalder is ditching Mystic Falls for the bottom of the ocean as he explores how climate change is raising the temperatures of the Earth’s bodies of water, which in turn can lead to cataclysmic storms.

“It’ll still scare the s— out of you,” Somerhalder tells PEOPLE of what he learned while filming National Geographic’s Years of Living Dangerously, “but it’ll enlighten you to what’s going on.”

The Vampire Diaries star and longtime conservationist is joins wife Nikki ReedArnold Schwarzenegger, America Ferrera and David Letterman on this season of the environmentally focused series.

“I think anyone that knows me would say without a doubt it’s one of the first things that comes to mind,” says the 37-year-old of his quest to protect the environment.

In Wednesday’s episode, Somerhalder heads to the Bahamas to investigate how warming waters can endanger the planet’s future based on evidence from major storms and hurricanes of the past. This kind of natural disaster hits home for the actor, who grew up in southeast Louisiana. 

“[Louisiana] been hit with all of them: Ivan, Rita, obviously Katrina,” says Somerhalder. “Katrina destroyed virtually everything, three-fourths of every tree and most houses, it’s insane.”

For Somerhalder, working on the episode — which also features Jack Black — was a chance to deliver crucial news “with people that I greatly respect, I knew directly that the message would get out because it’s hitting such a vast demographic of individuals. I was fortunate enough to be involved very, very early on.”

Years of Living Dangerously airs Wednesdays (10 p.m. ET) on National Geographic, and The Vampire Diaries airs Fridays (8 p.m. ET) on The CW.