In the opening moments of Our Rising Oceans we learn that global catastrophe lies beneath the awe-inspiring pale blue skies and ghostly white icescapes of West Antarctica. The scientific data regarding the effects of climate change on the ongoing process of glacial melting is overwhelming. Yet according to the many subjects featured in the film, a staggering percentage of the public remains doubtful, and our politicians and other policy influencers remain hesitant to act due to ill-informed skepticism and corporate interests.
In response to those naysayers, VICE founder and host Shane Smith ventures to the epicenter of the crisis to discover firsthand the science by which these changes are being observed, and the dire consequences of inaction.
"Antarctica is starting to melt," warns expert glaciologist Dr. Eric Rignot. Over the past twenty years, Dr. Rignot has analyzed reams of carefully procured data, and his discoveries indicate a rapidly deteriorating environment which could forever alter the fate of mankind. Here, in the midst of the Antarctic plains, wind is circulating at an unprecedented rate and pushing warm waters underneath the massive sheets of ice. This dynamic effectively melts these sheets from the bottom up, and has a profoundly distressing impact on rising sea levels.
Over the course of the film, Dr. Rignot is joined by a host of additional scientists who dedicate their lives to bearing witness to these calamitous changes, and pursuing solutions against the opposition of politicized stagnation. But even in the absence of this opposition, the disastrous effects of climate change may be too far gone to rectify. Dr. Rignot contends that even the strictest emission regulations cannot reverse the tides of a redefining global landscape. Others testify that additional environmental protection policies may slow the process, but will by no means guarantee the sustainability of future generations.
But even the slivers of hope which do exist seem impossible to realize given the gridlock of governmental leadership within the United States, as its representatives remain sharply divided on the mere existence of climate change. "I think it's almost like denying gravity now," says Vice President Joe Biden in an interview which closes the film. Our Rising Oceans paints a powerful portrait of a planet on the brink of ruin, and the political dysfunction which continues to push it over the edge.