Admirals, generals, and veterans are an unlikely bunch to interview for a documentary about global warming. However, in director Jared Scott’s brilliant new work, the focus isn’t on how human activity contributes to climate change but rather how climate change contributes to human activity, rendering these individuals—who have witnessed, analyzed, or offered strategic advice on the geopolitical destabilization that results from climactic changes—well qualified to weigh in.
According to the film, certain geopolitical calamities of the past few decades have been exacerbated or influenced by drought and flooding brought on by a warming world. How a 3-year famine led to the civil war in Syria, or the drying of Lake Chad led to the Somali crisis of the early 1990s, is not immediately obvious. But in careful interviews with experts, telling geographic aerial shots, and detailed graphics of the landscape and climate, Scott shows just how frighteningly interconnected politics is with the environment.
At times, the film comes off as melodramatic; a cello-heavy musical score and the decision to shoot each interview in large, empty rooms remind us that this is, after all, a movie and not a political report. But mostly, the film feels urgent.
Heartbreaking shots of migrants leaving their homelands, fleeing war or hunger, stress that the consequences of global warming–induced chaos bleed across borders. Although the effects have been most damaging to a small number of regions, the human crisis this damage instigates makes it a problem for all nations. Indeed, the film seems to warn that, if not adequately addressed, global warming will destroy this planet in the long term. But should the human crisis of the present further intensify, we may well destroy this planet ourselves first.