Rising Sea Levels
This documentary focuses on the murky science of predicting sea level rise. As well as visiting cities already facing flooding and storm surges from rising sea levels, the filmmakers examine preparations several major coastal cities are making to cope with increased flooding.
According to filmmakers, there was no effort to measure sea levels prior to the 17th century. A tide gauge in Turing Germany which has been continually measuring sea levels since the late 1700s reveals they rose at an average of one millimeter per year until the 1960s. Since then average global sea levels have risen by three millimeters per year, a total of 180 millimeters.
Apparently sea levels don’t rise at equal rates in different regions (due to variance in ocean currents, prevailing winds and tectonic plate movements). Sea levels are rising by one centimeter (10 millimeters) per year in Sweden, 20 centimeters per year in Indonesia, and roughly six millimeters a year in New York City.
As the frequency of catastrophic storms and flooding increases, planners in coastal towns and cities must make the difficult decision whether to relocate residents inland or build permanent flood defenses. In most cases, it comes down to a community’s financial resources. Poor communities are generally forced to relocate.
For example, Indonesian leaders are making plans to move the entire capitol Jakarta to higher ground. New York City is building flood defenses to protect lower Manhattan and Wall Street, but residents of Brooklyn, Staten Island, Queens, and the Bronx will be forced to relocate. The German constitution commits the government to protecting the coastal integrity of the entire country, and leaders are planning to construct a network of dykes.
Current sea level rises stem from the gradual melting of Greenland and Antarctica ice sheets as the planet slowly warms. The melting of both ice sheets is predicted to result in a total average sea level rise of 66 meters.
Losing Louisiana: Life in the Disappearing Mississippi Delta
Al Jazeera (2019)
This documentary concerns the steady disappearance of the Mississippi delta region in Louisiana. The erosion stems partly from climate change and rising sea levels, partly from channels petroleum corporations have dug through the wetlands and partly from decades of diverting new Mississippi sediment out to sea.
The gradual disappearance of the delta has means many coastal residents have lost their livelihood. Due to salt water contamination of their ground water, farmers are no longer able to grow sugarcane and rice or graze stock. Meanwhile shrimping industry has collapsed. Because shrimp require require freshwater marshes to reproduce, their populations have been have been decimated.
In this remake of their 2009 documentary, Al Jazeera filmmakers revisit an area of the Mississippi delta they first filmed ten years ago. They learn the rate of delta shrinkage has declined from 70 to 15 square miles per year. Subsidence is worst in poor communicates which have no real protection against hurricanes. This contrasts with well-to-do communities, which have built massive hurricane levees.
For some reason the 2019 segment makes no mention of the 2010 Deep Water Horizons disaster and the toxic effect on wildlife of the massive oil spill and the poisonous oil dispersant Corexit BP dumped into the Gulf of Mexico.
Here are 2013 and 2016 accounts summarizing the long term effects on Gulf marine life that will take decades to repair:
Corexit BP Oil Dispersant
New Oceana Report Highlights Long Term Impacts Deep Water Horizon Oil
Directed by Daniel Price and Adrien Taylor (2016)
Thirty Million is a New Zealand documentary about how rising sea levels in Bangladesh are already displacing (and killing) people in low lying coastal areas. It depicts quite dramatically how coastal farmers inundated by rising tides are moving into incredibly congested cities, where there is virtually no housing or infrastructure to support them. There many of them die – through lack of food, untreated medical illness or a variety of catastrophic events (fires, building collapse, floods, etc.). Those with above average wealth attempt to leave Bangladesh for Europe, Australia, New Zealand and other destinations.
The film features former Prime Minister Helen Clark in her new role as the administrator of the UN Development Programme. She speaks very eloquently about the urgent need to reduce global carbon emissions. I find it a bit hypocritical in few of her failure to make a serious effort to reduce New Zealand’s CO2 emissions during her stint as prime minister (1999-2008).
The Five Changes of Climate Grief
National Geographic (2015)
The Five Changes of Climate Grief is a humorous documentary in which Arnold Schwarzenegger plays a psychiatrist and Bill Nye the Science Guy plays himself as the latter grapples with climate denial (not the kind Exxon pays for but the personal kind all of us experience).
The main premise of the film is that all of us experience some degree of grief in confronting the enormity of the climate crisis. Thus all of us must work through the five stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance – as we collectively struggle to find a solution.
The video has some great footage of the ecological devastation caused by Canadian tar sands mining and processing , as well as beach front properties on the Florida coast that are already uninhabitable due to rising sea levels.
I was delighted to see the filmmakers expose carbon trading for the corrupt corporate-driven scam it is. I was also pleasantly surprised to see that most states (including Oklahoma and Alaska) have plans in place to achieve 100% fossil-free energy production by 2050.
Parts of the documentary I objected to were the heavy promotion of electric vehicles (we can only produce sufficient renewable electricity for very wealthy people to own them) and the promotion of Guy McPherson as an expert in climate science. Recently McPherson, whose science background is in ecology, natural resources and evolutionary biology, has been making claims that catastrophic climate feedback loops will cause human extinction within the next six months.
Yesterday New Plymouth was one of 35 New Zealand communities kicking off the global Peoples Climate March calling for real action on climate change at COP21.
In our community, 100 people celebrated with a Peoples Climate Picnic and rally, followed by a flash mob in our mall and a march down Devon Street.
We chose City Centre mall, based on predictions it will be under water with a 6 meter rise in sea levels (to be honest, I’m not sure if that’s a bad thing).
Fifteen thousand people marched in Auckland, ten thousand in Wellington and eight thousand in Christchurch.
More coverage of other marches here: New Zealanders Rally to Global Peoples Climate March