Importance of Natural Resources

Rising Tide: Climate Change and the World’s Oceans – Narrated by David Strathairn – Full Episode

(dramatic music) Narrator: Around the world, sea levels are on the rise. By the end of this century, hundreds of millions of people, more than the current population of the United States, could be displaced from their homes. In the Indian Ocean, in the South Pacific, and in the Caribbean, entire countries are under threat. Great Decisions investigates what can be done to prepare for the climate crisis on the horizon. Rising Tide: Climate Change and the World’s Oceans, next on Great Decisions. (dramatic music) Announcer: Great Decisions is produced by the Foreign Policy Association in association with Thomson Reuters. Funding for Great Decisions is provided by PricewaterhouseCoopers, LLP and the Nelson B. Delavan Foundation. (upbeat music) Narrator: The iconic images of global climate change show the retreat of glaciers and the melting of the polar ice caps. But the reasons for sea level rise are diverse and complex. -: There are two major factors that contribute to rising sea levels. One is simply that warmer water takes up more volume. The second biggie is ice melting off land. -: There’s a whole array of projections for the end of this century but some of them go up to as much as two meters. The most optimistic projections are only one meter. Another major unknown is the rate at which the West Antarctic Ice Sheet and the Greenland Ice Sheet will melt. -: The climate is changing. It’s clear that human activity is playing a role. I think some of the projections of catastrophic warming aren’t borne in the data. They’re based on scenarios that are unlikely to become true. In that regard, yes, we can talk about climate change and the costs and the benefits of a warming world, but at the same time, the fearmongering is almost just as disingenuous as saying global warming is a hoax. -: Climate change is real and it’s caused by human behavior. Our use of fossil fuels and carbon emissions is adding to the warming of the earth. Narrator: A gradual rise in temperatures and sea levels are closely linked to the severity of extreme weather. The accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere poses a global problem which no one country can address alone. -: The Nobel laureate Bill Nordhaus has put forward some helpful figures. What he’s identified very clearly is that we’ve moved from a situation where temperatures have risen significantly more in the last few centuries than they did for the last 650,000 years. So, the implication is that if we reduce or pivot some of these human-led activities that you would therefore see a reduction in emissions and therefore you would see at least a reduction in the degree to which the temperature around the world is actually rising. -: We know to achieve the ultimate goal of certainly keeping warming below two degrees centigrade, that that’s gonna require upping the ante beyond that 10- or 15-year time period. We’re talking about certainly the industrialized countries, like the United States, looking at 80% kinds of reductions by mid-century. -: It’s the consensus of the models in this area that a two-degree target is at this point getting very, very difficult to meet, even with maximum efforts. Some of the modeling that’s been done in this area would suggest carbon taxes in the $500 to $1,000 or even higher dollars per ton of CO2. -: Even if the United States were to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions down to zero or achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions, the climate models project that we would only mitigate global temperatures a few tenths of a degree Celsius by the year 2100 and we would maybe avert a few centimeters of sea level rise over that same time period. Narrator: The Paris Agreement, negotiated by 196 countries in 2015, was intended to provide a framework for more ambitious global emissions reduction targets. In 2017, President Donald Trump announced the United States’ intention to withdraw from the accord. -: What, I think, this administration saw is that the Paris accord would have significant costs to the American economy in terms of the policies that would increase the cost of energy and drive out attempts to produce coal, oil, and natural gas in the United States and shift those activities elsewhere. -: One country by itself will make essentially no difference to whether it’s sea level rise or other impacts of climate change because they’re only a small fraction of the emissions. So, what’s really damaging about the Trump policies is that it slows this very difficult process of reaching international consensus and after that international agreement. -: It would be nice to have a Paris Accord, but one that holds all the countries equally responsible. My problems with Kyoto and Paris weren’t the goals, the goals are great. The problem is that they kind of cut Russia and China a break, which I don’t think is totally fair to the developed nations like the United States and Europe. -: The United States got all of the benefits of our polluting days as we rose to an industrial giant and now we’re in the position of telling countries like China and India that they should forsake that benefit that the United States got, unregulated carbon pollution, simply because the crisis is here and now. Narrator: A rationale for the withdrawal from the accord remains hotly debated in Washington. -: What disturbs me about it is that I think he’s done it mainly to placate the coal producing constituency here in the United States and more specifically he’s concerned about the states of West Virginia and Kentucky. And I think that’s an unfortunate way to make these kinds of decisions. -: I was in the White House Situation Room on the day after the withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord happened. I take it as basically a box-checking exercise that was something that wasn’t done with a lot of regard for the long term consequences of future generations of our country or the planet. -: Domestic politics. There’s no rational reason to withdraw from the Paris Agreement that every single other country in the world is in other than the fact that Trump wanted to kind of provoke liberals, I guess, take a shot at Obama, and signal to the fossil fuel industry that they’re gonna be able to do whatever they want. It is the worst kind of political calculation. Narrator: Now, opinions among American legislators are divided about whether it makes sense for the United States to rejoin the Paris Agreement. -: You’ve got a whole range of ideologies here behind opposition to talking about climate change. You have the deniers, or the hoaxers, or whatever they call ’em. You have the people that agree that there is climate change but they don’t think man’s had as much to do with it as the IPCC or the intergovernmental study suggests. Then there are people that agree, you know, man has had a role and climate cycles probably have a role, too, and we should address what we can, we can’t stop climate cycles but we can deal with man’s part. -: The United States can’t preach temperance from a barstool. We can’t tell the rest of the world to do something about climate when we ourselves have pulled out of the Paris Climate Agreement. The American public gets it. The polling shows that there’s been a dramatic increase in the acceptance of climate change being real and the need to do something about it. The problem, really, is in the White House where the President refuses to accept the science and to accept the responsibility of dealing with the consequences of what the science is telling us. Narrator: For the earth’s lowest lying countries, the problems posed by climate change are more urgent. -: The largest number of people vulnerable to climate migration is Bangladesh. It’s a very low-lying country. There are tens of millions of people who are in real danger of having to move, particularly given the political and ethnic and religious tensions in that part of the world. -: Whether and how dramatic this is going to be no one can be absolutely certain, but I think there’s some countries, smaller ones, like some of these South Pacific islands have actually thought about well, you know, maybe we have to move quite a bit of our assets to some other part of the world and there might be a time when our populations would actually have to be transplanted. Narrator: Several nations in the South Pacific have already chosen to evacuate islands that are facing particularly grave threats. -: Governments have already relocated entire populations within their national borders. So, governments in both the Pacific and the Caribbean have already relocated communities into areas that are safer for them to live. -: In most of the small island states that are endangered by sea level rise, there is not overt discussion of moving, of fleeing, it tends to be politically unacceptable in those countries. They really want to stay where they’ve been for thousands of years. Narrator: As the sea levels rise, low-lying nations face difficult choices about how to prepare. Some countries, like Kiribati, are already making plans to relocate their populations. -: Kiribati, which is a Pacific country, has already purchased land in Fiji with the idea of relocating its entire population. Dominica which is a Caribbean island, pledged to become the first climate resilient nation in the world after it was devastated by Hurricane Maria in 2017. It’s planning to take massive infrastructural changes like elevating bridges, burying utility cables. -: A former administration of Kiribati bought land in Fiji purportedly for farming but most people thought also to move some portion of their population. The later administration rejected that idea. But Kiribati is one of the countries that is in most danger of being submerged eventually as a result of climate change. Narrator: Other countries favor a different approach, using engineering to fight back against rising seas. This approach often requires significant investment. -: There are two basic strategies to the rising seas, one is protect and the other is retreat. So, for example, if you have a very large city such as New York, extremely valuable, lots of valuable real estate, it would be unthinkable for us to let New York just gradually become inundated. So, I think for New York, you’d say, well, let’s figure out a way to protect it by sea walls and barriers and the various kinds of mechanisms for doing that. -: You had a tremendous flood in 1953 in the Netherlands that killed over 2,000 people, over 30,000 animals, inundated nearly 10% of the entire country. And so, you will hear people say well, you know, the Netherlands has spent over $50 billion since 1953 in order to address North Sea and other flood related issues. And that’s certainly a tremendous amount of money over a 60-plus-year period of time. But for the Dutch it’s a matter of national survival. Narrator: The most disruptive consequence of sea level rise could be the displacement of hundreds of millions of refugees from low-lying areas. -: Almost no countries have agreed to take in people who are displaced by climate change. There are a few very small bilateral agreements that provide for that. -: When most people think of islands and the impacts that climate change will have on islands and low-lying nations, they think that these countries will be completely submerged under water. But long before that happens, many islands will become uninhabitable because of other effects of sea level rise. So, for example, sea level rise causes salt water intrusion. It causes soil salinization, and this effects people’s access to freshwater and to food. -: Local political infrastructures are simply not ready for the very quick tsunami of population migration that comes as the land that they can farm changes literally under their feet. Narrator: Currently, international law does not offer any recognized status to those who are forced to leave their homes on account of climate change. -: Because we succeeded after World War II in defining a refugee in the 1951 convention, revising that, opening up the rights of asylum, of refugee status is gonna be a real challenge. -: The international community has made strides to try to address this problem. Recently almost 200 countries adopted the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration. And this compact is the first international agreement on migration and recognizes that climate change is a reason that people move and that as a global community we need to be addressing this issue. -: The great point that I would make is that in the attempt to try to address those who are forced to flee their country as a result of climate change, we don’t end up undermining the position of those who are forced to flee as a result of violence or political conflict. -: There is quite a debate about whether the definition of refugee should be changed. One grounds for opposition to it is that the number of people who are displaced by climate change would overwhelm the system. It’s far more than the number of people who are displaced by what’s conventionally thought of as persecution. Narrator: While vulnerable populations in poorer countries will feel severe impacts from climate change first, advanced economies are not immune to the effects. -: The United States is probably the most heavily affected by large storms of any large country. Hurricanes are generated by warm water and they’re fed by warm water. As the water gets warmer, then you’re likely to have more severe hurricanes, and that means more intense hurricanes. -: Many advanced economies have coastal communities and cities. New York, for example, is a coastal city. In the U.S., scientists report that over 300,000 homes valued at collectively over $100 billion are at risk of being completely flooded by 2045. -: I mean, if you pick the same level of protection that the Dutch have out of necessity, it’s $50 billion for every 250 miles of coastline. -: Another thing we can do is look at some of the resiliency infrastructure ideas that are being talked about like deep injection wells, berms, sea walls, things like that. They’re trying some of that in Miami Beach right now to deal with the rising sea levels. Narrator: There are calls to look beyond renewable energy sources to address the problem more quickly as the cost of inaction to global productivity could be daunting. -: Let’s take three degree C where the numbers have been pretty carefully gone over. At the point where we cross the three-degree mark, it can cost two to five percent of world output and rising very sharply as temperature rises after that. -: We actually have a form of dense energy that can be made quite safe, emits virtually nothing, and could power an extremely large portion of our society and that is nuclear fission. The new reactor designs are considered pretty fail safe. If people fear global warming but somehow fear nuclear power more, I question their seriousness on the issue. -: There’s no mention of something like nuclear power which is by far the largest source of emissions-free electricity that we have on this planet and can provide a lot of baseload power. And one would think that if you are really worried about the existential threat that climate change could pose you would want to build all the nuclear you can get. Narrator: Some experts have argued that the ongoing migration crises in Europe and the Western Hemisphere are opportunities for richer nations to learn how to manage the even larger flows of migrants that climate change might trigger. -: The influx of migrants that happened in 2015 was a great wake up call to many of the politicians in the European Union that you may have a good will to be able to bring migrants into a society but that this needs to be calibrated with regard to thinking about the social security system to be able to support this, the welfare system to be able to support this, as well as the educational and growth opportunities going forward. The convertability of skills, the retraining of skills. -: The lessons are not yet being learned. There is an enormous temptation on the part of the richer countries to ignore problems until they are overwhelming and all of our experience at the International Rescue Committee is that the sooner you address the position of refugees, the sooner you integrate them into society, the greater their chances of success. -: Think of the strengthening of Orban’s government in Hungary, think of the strengthening of right-wing parties in France, and think, of course, of Brexit, all driven heavily by, not just, but heavily by migration concerns. So, we’ve entered a period of political populist pushback against refugees and migrants. And the politics of all this is very challenging. (ominous music) Narrator: In the United States, one plan to address climate change has been nicknamed the Green New Deal. -: The Green New Deal is a set of principles and of resolution. It’s not a bill and it’s four basic points when it comes to energy. One is we have a very large problem. Second of all, we have to respond with a very robust solution. Third, we’ll create millions of jobs as we rebuild our energy economy. And fourth, we can direct a lot of those jobs to places that really need them including former fossil fuel communities, to frontline urban communities that have been bypassed before and to rural and frontier communities. -: There are some very nice, aspirational goals in there, no doubt about it. I don’t know that I see it as a structurally complete package of how to get there. That’s why I’m focusing on some more tangible things like the resolution about sea level rise, like the carbon tax, like pushing to ban offshore drilling in the eastern Gulf. -: We’ve become the world’s leading producer in natural gas and in oil. What the Green New Deal attempts to do is tax and regulate and mandate that affordable, reliable energy out of existence and that’s going to have cataclysmic economic effects on this economy. -: There are millions of jobs to be had in renewable energy technology, in solar panel construction, in wind turbine development, and advanced battery technology. And if the United States doesn’t create a domestic market for those technologies, then those companies are gonna continue to grow in places like China and India and Europe where there are domestic markets for renewable energy. So, I just don’t buy this idea that a big investment in renewable energy in this country is expensive. What’s expensive is not creating a domestic market for renewable energy. Narrator: In less developed countries, large-scale development projects to address climate change bring economic challenges. The Green Climate Fund was designed to address this issue. -: The Green Climate Fund was established by the United Nations as a sort of a bank to take in money from the developed countries that would be used to assist in the climate mitigation and adaptation measures of the developing countries. -: What we said as a consortium of more advanced economies– U.S., Europe, Japan, and others– is we will create a fund that will be available to help poorer countries skip over the dirtier forms of energy like coal and develop clean renewable sources of energy. One of the things I remember in the very last days of the Obama administration is we just kind of went around knowing that Trump was gonna take aim at this, how can we commit as much money to this as possible? And ended up with kind of several billion dollars as a U.S. commitment. Trump, of course, has walked away from this, pulled back. -: The fact that the U.S. pledged three billion and only gave one during President Obama’s administration was, again, a step in the right direction but not adequate. The fact that we’ve given nothing since that point to this vital fund is a sad commentary on our unwillingness to recognize the global responsibilities that exist to deal with the threat of climate warming. Narrator: At the heart of the climate change issue is the question of what richer countries owe to world’s most fragile nations. -: First and foremost, I think we need to continue to promote policies that increase economic growth in the developing world and part of that is ensuring they have access to affordable, reliable power because it’s when countries have a significant level of income that they start to care about the environment and consequently will care about climate change. -: My view is that the first step that countries have to take is to raise the price of carbon, raise the price of CO2 emissions. That will solve a lot of the issues that need to be solved. -: We cannot have our actions create catastrophic conditions for vulnerable people around the world and then turn a blind eye to the impact that we have created and the moral responsibility that we have to reach out our hands to help. -: I think it’s incumbent on countries like our own and others like the Dutch who have studied these problems ad infinitum to share our knowledge and capabilities with the world. -: How well we can prepare will be a kind of judgment on us in the human story. We knew. Have we gotten prepared? How well of a job have we done? We’ll see how we do in the human story. Narrator: The gradual rise in sea levels and increasingly severe storms are a crisis in slow motion. Like all mammals, humanity is superbly adapted to deal with immediate threats but far less capable of tackling long term challenges. With so much potential to reshape how nations interact with one another, climate change and rising seas may force the world to recognize that the decisions made today will be felt for generations to come. Narrator: Great Decisions is America’s largest discussion program on global affairs. Discussion groups meet in community centers, libraries, places of worship, and homes across the country to discuss global issues with their community. Participants read the eight-topic briefing book, meet to discuss each topic, and complete a ballot, which shares their views with Congress. To start or join a discussion group in your community, visit or call 1-800-477-5836. Great Decisions is produced by the Foreign Policy Association, in association with Thomson Reuters. Funding for Great Decisions is provided by PricewaterhouseCoopers, LLP and the Nelson B. Delavan Foundation. (dramatic music) (upbeat music)

Reader Comments

  1. Failed sea level rise predictions are the most hilarious of all the daft climate change projections. Maldives still not under water, they refuse to play ball! CO2 tax required regardless, thank you so much.

  2. An expert on sea level change with NOAA made a position statement on sea levels, they would not change, no emergency existed.
    Despite being the most senior and experienced within the group they voted to ignore him and push the consensus that sea levels would rise.
    The scientist felt this wrong and unrthical.
    Roy Spencer was a Nasa scientist, tasked with a project meant to prove the Greenhouse effect using satellite data.
    Upon conclusion Spencer announced the Greenhouse effect was minimal, far less than expected.
    The Greenhouse effect didnt exist.
    Those supporting the CO2 theory criticized his conclusion and now ignore him.
    What bothers me is the lack of honesty in the scientific community and the urgency to push this agenda.
    About 20+ years agoi was reading articles posted by Nasa stating several other planets were showing signs of Global warming as well.
    Nasa went on to say it was likely increasing cosmic radiation passing through from outer space.
    Then it became political.
    There is your answer, blame humans towards political and economic manipulation.

  3. Patented solutioning for climate change, fuel and food security
    There is still time!
    This project has been supported by The Industry, Innovation and Science Australia!

  4. I'm surprised by the troll deniers on this discussion. I guess this non-partisan organization "sounds" liberal because they focus on the truth.

  5. IMPORTANT QUESTION – How many people have died as a result of rising temperatures due to humans increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide levels?

    ANSWER – The answer is ZERO because carbon dioxide is a tiny trace gas that represents just .04% of our atmosphere and has no measurable effect on temperature.

    QUESTION – How many people have died as a result of climate hysteria and the renewable energy fad?

    ANSWER – Many millions have died through the biofuel hoax alone. When you make energy production directly compete with food production you increase the cost of fertilizer, farmland, and food all over the world. Malnutrition is the number one cause of avoidable premature death in the world, not war and terrorism. Malnutrition is also the predominate cause of avoidable mental retardation in children. Do environmentalists care? Hell no! Most environmentalists are spoiled self-absorbed little children who never take responsibility for their own mistakes, never consider the consequences of their own horrible ideas, and never think issues through. They bandwagon jumpers, not real scientists.

    Please see New Climate Discovery at

    Then take a quick look at Climate Hysteria in Pictures at

  6. It's been public information for more than 20 years that the United States Navy has been preparing for the rise in sea level around the world, anticipating disruption to populations.

  7. Yep , and 15 sea front resorts worth billions opened last year in the Maldives with 30 more due next year. Funny the pacific islands have grown by 15 per cent also. Weird hey.

    I know lets ignore the roll out of 5G technology and tax carbon to save the world from problems that dont exist. Whoo left wing comon sense at its best.

  8. Just wow. This is a very informative video and an important one too, thank you for sharing! We have just released a Nature & Climate documentary too, keep up the love and fight for nature!! Subscribed!

  9. Here is the worlds most relied upon and accepted as the most accurate measure of the level of the worlds oceans -And is just 1 of many i will say that completely destroys the bullshit in this video.

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