'The Age of Consequences': Film Review

Courtesy of PF Pictures
A persuasive eco-doc in which conservative voices are the ones crying in the wilderness.

Why won't Congress listen to military strategists about climate change?

In last year's Requiem for the American Dream, Jared P. Scott was one of a trio of filmmakers behind a Noam Chomsky-centric dissection of American inequality that, for all the potency of its critique, arrived too late in the game to garner much attention. Scott will likely meet a similar fate with The Age of Consequences: Though he explores climate change from an angle most big-screen docs have underemphasized — the way it is seen by the military planners whose jobs require a clear-eyed assessment of future threats — one worries that its novelty won't carry it beyond the crowd of already convinced moviegoers. Though made with cinematic polish, its prospects for changing minds are strongest on TV.

Casting aside the science-steeped talking heads that have been so thoroughly ignored by policymakers on the political right, Scott focuses on the kind of people conservatives love to praise: Marine brigadier generals, Army chiefs of staff, veterans who served tours of duty in our most dangerous war zones. From them, he gets not hand-wringing about vanishing animal habitats and melting glaciers. He gets talk of wars we'll have to fight; urban disasters we aren't equipped to face; waves of refugees that could dwarf the one currently pushing Europe to the brink.

None of these topics have escaped the notice of journalists covering the climate-change beat in recent years. But Scott packages these concerns and others in a smart way, and includes the occasional bit of eye-opening history — as when an author notes how the Maya civilization and the Tang Dynasty, on opposite sides of the globe, faced collapses at the same time due to environmental factors.

A mood of catastrophe dominates most of the doc, and why wouldn't it, given the ability of elected officials to ignore research that has no political slant? Scott does, however, adhere to agit-doc formula by pivoting eventually to an optimistic tone, showing what an economic boon energy independence would be for America and the world. Tell that to the supposedly successful businessman who's busy campaigning for President by courting voters who still believe climate change is a hoax.

Venue: Sheffield DocFest
Production company: PF Pictures
Director-screenwriter: Jared P. Scott
Producers: Kelly Nyks, Jared P. Scott
Executive producer: Sophie Robinson
Director of photography: Michael McSweeney
Editor: Hypatia Porter
Composer: Malcolm Francis

Not rated, 80 minutes