Jared P. Scott’s fourth feature brings together the thematic strands of his previous work – Do the Math (2013), Disruption (2014) and Requiem for the American Dream (2015) – to create an overarching study of the threats to global stability posed by climate change. But what sets The Age of Consequences apart from so many films of this ilk is the range of voices Scott has been able to marshal; the message is delivered not by environmental activists, but generals, admirals, professors, former White House advisers and public policy fellows. This is the climate crisis as seen through the prism of an increasingly agitated establishment, analysing its implications from a political, economic and military standpoint.
Pitched as The Hurt Locker meets An Inconvenient Truth, The Age of Consequences assesses the extent of global readiness for the range of eventualities stemming from climate change. Scott deftly weaves together a web of causalities and consequences, linking individual stories which outline the role of climate change as a catalyst for unrest. Talking heads are interspersed with footage which brings the reality of climatic instability into sharp relief: from the poppy fields of Afghanistan to the streets of Syria. Scott’s clear and substantive approach is strikingly different from the emotive tone that characterises much of the discussion on this issue, with an emphasis on institutional solutions rather than individual action. The Age of Consequences feels more like a briefing than agitprop.
But The Age of Consequences offers more than a précis of geopolitical crisis management – the human cost of climate change is explored to devastating effect. We are in the midst of a refugee crisis not seen since the Second World War, and Scott extrapolates from the current upheavals to stress how, as historian and author Timothy Snyder concludes, ‘the only border that is real is the atmosphere’, as increasing numbers of those displaced by climate change will trigger further waves of unrest. The most affecting footage used in the film is that from the Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan, Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines and Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans – all powerful illustrations of what happens when public infrastructures collapses in the face of a climate-induced emergency.
Though it paints a grim picture of a world teetering on the brink of collapse, The Age of Consequences has a hopeful coda; offering the possibility of an innovation-driven approach to resolving what former U.S. Army captain and CEO of the Truman Project Michael Breen describes as ‘the most difficult collective action problem we’ve ever faced’. What was once a fringe concern is now a national security priority, and Scott skilfully elucidates the process of this gradual dawning. The Age of Consequences is an incendiary and insightful call to action. It is a bold, authoritative work which lays out in the starkest terms the existential threat posed by our inability to adapt to the cascading disasters we have set in motion.
The Age of Consequences will have its international premiere at Sheffield Doc/Fest on the 11th of June – 12:30 at the Vimeo Showroom 2.
Follow Daniel Palmer on Twitter at @mrdmpalmer.