Climate Refugees’ Quotes/Reactions….

Robert Redford, Founder of Sundance, “Climate Refugees is an agent for social

Sherri Quinn, NPR, Climate Refugees is a sesounding wake‐up call for every human
being to go green immediately. It is a must‐see film that puts the human soul in the
science of climate change.”

Peter Debruge, Variety, With leading reserchers and high profile political figures,
Climate Refugees presents a swell of compelling opinion about the challenges such
change puts on the global populations.”

Ed Begley, Activist/Actor, “This film illuminates the biggest challenge humankind wil
face, climate refugees.”

Al Gore, Former U.S. Vice President, "Climate Refugees are a national security issue."

Richard Schiff, Editor, Greenwich Village Gazette, "The most important documentary
made in the last 30 years."

Howard Burns, Editor, Moving Pictures Magazine "'Climate Refugees' is an important
film that should be seen no matter what one's views are on the effects of climate
change the world over. Not only are there people in this world who are already feeling
the devastating toll of this supremely important issue, but after watching Michael
Nash's eye‐opening documentary, you quickly begin to understand that our own
national security is threatened by events happening both within and outside our
borders. Nash has raised a very dark red flag; now, it is up to all of us to heed his

Senator Barbara Boxer, California, "Films like Climate Refugees and The Inconvenient
Truth are the films that will fill the sails to the Boxer ‐ Kerry climate bill, allowing
America to go green."


Hollywood goes to Copenhagen climate summit

Bob Tourtellotte
Thu Dec 10, 2009 3:09pm EST

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Think melting arctic ice caps are the biggest threat from global warming? Dangers to polar bears? Think again, and think fast.
Entertainment  |  Green Business  |  COP15

To hear film director Michael Nash and others talk, bigger issues are national security and the prospect of millions of refugees displaced due to world weather changes. And they are not problems for the future, they are issues today.
Director/producer Nash and producer Justin Hogan are going to Copenhagen this week where their documentary "Climate Refugees" will play Monday for a private audience of leaders and scientists at a world summit on climate change. 
Nash interviews a range of scientists and politicians from U.S. Senator John Kerry to former Congressman Newt Gingrich who view climate change as a security issue if mass displacement leads to conflict among countries competing for resources. The movie, looking at the human toll of global warming, heads to its world public premiere in January at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah where climate change documentary "An Inconvenient Truth" debuted in 2006 before going on to critical acclaim, box office success and Oscar glory.

Nash told Reuters he was thrilled to be showing his movie in Copenhagen to politicians who can pass laws that stem global warming, but the Sundance premiere would boost the film with general audiences. "It's great to go to Copenhagen, but we also need the people to tell the policymakers what they want," Nash said. Three years ago Nash began reading about mass migrations of people looking for water and food in dry regions of Africa and losing their homes to rising seawater in Bangladesh. With video camera on shoulders, he and Hogan ventured to such places, including Orissa, India, where the coastal village of Kanhapura has vanished. They spent time on Tuvalu, a South Pacific island that is slowly sinking and where thousands of people will soon be displaced. In figures released last Tuesday, the International Organization for Migration estimated climate change would drive a billion people worldwide from their homes in the next four decades. In 2008, 20 million people became homeless in environmental disasters, the IOM said."One of the things I learned traveling to some 50 countries is that we better hope man is causing (climate change) because if we are in a natural cycle and it is caused by something we can't control, that would really be alarming," Nash said.
"Climate Refugees" ultimately offers hope that global warming can be stemmed.
(Editing by Jill Serjeant and Howard Goller)



Redford on the New Sundance
Matt Sayles/Associated Press

As the 2010 Sundance Film Festival comes to an end this weekend, how is Robert 
Redford feeling about this year’s installment?
In an interview, Mr. Redford, who created the Sundance Institute in 1981, first made it clear how unhappy he was with the road the festival was recently traveling under Geoffrey Gilmore, who stepped down as director last February.“This year I got very heavily involved again because

we had to let some folks go,” Mr. Redford said. “It was the right thing to do. Geoff was ready to go and we were also ready
to move on. I felt the festival was flat-lining and not going in the direction I wanted.” Specifically, Mr. Redford worried about too much Hollywood hoopla and not enough attention to the mission of Sundance, which is to highlight filmmaking happening outside of the studio system. A spokeswoman for Mr. Gilmore, who now works for the company that runs the Tribeca Film Festival, said he was unavailable to comment.

Does Mr. Redford think an array of changes implemented for this year’s festival – a new director, a renewed focus on cinematic “rebellion” and smaller films, making some Sundance content immediately available on the Internet – has successfully steered Sundance back in his preferred direction? “As long as we can be moving forward, I am thrilled,” he said. Mr. Redford did not want to discuss specific movies he liked, but he made an exceptionto mention three “wonderful” documentaries: “Enemies of the People,” about Cambodia’s killing fields; “A Small Act,” about an African boy whose education was sponsored by an anonymous woman; and “Climate Refugees,” about the impacts global warming will have on global population centers. “That film can be an agent for social change – that’s really exciting to me,” he said.

Robert Redford and Michael Nash Director of Climate Refugees



Scrambling to gather footage for his movie Gasland, director Josh Fox was chased off
drilling sites; to this day he lives with treats against his career and life. Traveling
ambitiously to the far corners of the earth to reveal the human impact of global warming,
moviemaker Michael Nash endured African commando questioning at gunpoint and often
worked without sleep for days on end to bring home the raw material for Climate
Refugees. Louie Psihoyos, after months of dodging Japanese police and thugs under the
cloak of darkness to film dolphins slaughters in the The Cove, became a wanted ma
before the doc premiered in Tokyo last fall.



– Want to get your documentary into Sundance? Here’s a tip from one
of this years 16 entries in the competition category. Have the Speaker of the House, the
governor of Colorado and the Senator from Massachusetts make phone calls on your
behalf. “you’ve really created quite the buzz around the office,” Sundance director Trevor
Groth told director-producer Michael Nash when he phoned to wave the white flag.
“Who’s calling next, Obama.”
The truth is that Climate Refugees a visually and emotionally gripping expose of the
human impact of climate change, was already a shoo-in. By figuratively taking Al Gore’s
slide show out of the lecture hall and onto a three year journey to the far corners of the
planet, as well as the upper echelon of American and world political offices, the two-man
crew of Nash and Producer Justin Hogan came home with the most compelling proof yet
that we better damn well act now.
From the African Congo to the island nation of Tuvalu, the scenery is amazing, even as
the millions of faces of starving refugees are tragically sad. Perhaps more than any other
film this year, Climate Refugees should be a game changer.
DON CHEADLE - A donation to a charity auction is a nice and showing up for the….

Fri., Dec. 11. 2009 


Eco doc gets UN assist


Michael P. Nash's "Climate Refugees" is one of a handful of environmentally focused documentaries to unspool in Copenhagen during the United Nations Climate Conference, which runs through Dec. 18.
Posted: Fri., Dec. 11. 2009 2:29pm PT

What sets it apart is that it was sparked by a provocative U.N. finding. In 2006, Nash came across a U.N. University study, which asserts that there are more environmental refugees in the world than political or religious refugees. "I just thought that was crazy," says Nash.
The director, who'd made two low-budget indies (one of them an eco-thriller), embarked on a global fact-finding mission that has gelled into a documentary, which is now racking up some impressive screening invitations. The first unspooling of "Climate Refugees" was held in the U.S. Capitol building in October, with an intro by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.). After showing in Copenhagen, the film is headed to the Sundance film fest, where it has a Spotlight slot. It then travels to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Nash admits he didn't realize the weight and prestige of the Davos invite at first. He'd told organizers, "Well, we're going to be at Sundance ..." He'll now depart the Utah fest a day early to wing his way to economic confab. Early on, Nash had won the participation of the U.N.'s climate change convention chief Ivo de Boer. Nash had first heard him speak at an eco summit in Poland and then followed him to Bonn, Germany, where told de Boer what he was up to. "I said, I want to show the human face of climate change, and I just saw his eyes light up," Nash remembers. "He became very supportive." The U.N. ties gave the helmer invaluable access to the most current statistics on refugees, as well as access to parts of the world where he and his producer needed to document their story. While they'd traveled to China, Bangladesh, Tuvalu and the Arctic Circle on their own, the U.N. helped fly them deep into Africa's conflict-torn regions.

The U.N. didn't ask for anything in return -- until recently. Nash says that in August, when "Climate Refugees" was in post, "the U.N. said, 'We need your help -- we have 90 days to save the world.'" They needed a visual document to show on Capitol Hill and, eventually, in Copenhagen. So Nash rushed to get the film finished in time to show it in Washington, D.C., in October. There are a number of reasons why the doc likely works for the U.N. and political minds. Many of the talking heads in "Climate Refugees" are the very same U.N. experts and political heavyweights that are leading the debate on the topic in Copenhagen. But the film also takes a decidedly nonpartisan approach. Both John Kerry and Newt Gingrich appear in the film. The doc also stesses the destabilizing effects of mass migration due to climate change, rendering it an urgent global political and economic issue. And beyond presenting grim facts and pictures, "Climate Refugees" also offers solutions from a range of scientists and experts. "I ask the audience to drive by a bloody car accident before I ask them to buckle up their seatbelt," Nash says. It seems to be the formula of choice for the pols and orgs eager to move the needle quickly. 



Sundance film puts human face on climate change 

PARK CITY, Utah (AFP) – The devastating impact of global warming on communities
worldwide is the subject of a powerful Sundance documentary aiming to put a human
Face on climate change.

Michael Nash's film -- "Climate Refugees" -- is a compelling look at the millions of
humans displaced by disasters arising from incremental and rapid ecological changes to
the environment and more frequent extreme weather events such as hurricanes, cyclones,
fires and tornadoes. A conference to discuss the subject is to be held on Sunday at the sidelines of the
Sundance Film Festival, the annual celebration of independent films in Utah which runs 
until January 31.

(PHOTO) Bill Gates and director Michael Nash at the Director’s Brunch at Sundance Resort

"Three years ago, people concerned about global warming were thinking about how long
polar bears would survive," said Nash, whose film is being screened out of competition at

"And the fact is that what's happening today is affecting tens of millions of people all
over the world," Nash told AFP.
Nash's film includes interviews with experts, political leaders and officials from
international and humanitarian organizations while traveling to all corners of the globe to
explore the phenomenon.

Countries and regions visited include cyclone-prone Bangladesh, China, Africa and the
idyllic South Pacific island nation of Tuvalu, which is threatened by rising sea levels.
The film also studies the fate of 300,000 climate refugees closer to the United States,
those left destitute following 2005's Hurricane Katrina.
"People in America are concerned about the hurricanes, or mudslides and fires in
California, or tornados, but that's nothing compared to 50 or 100 million climate refugees
crossing the borders looking for food and water," Nash explained.
Nash participated in last month's turbulent international conference on climate change in
Copenhagen, an experience he described as "frustrating" after the failure to agree on a
treaty that would roll back the threat posed by greenhouse gases and provide funds for
poor, vulnerable nations.

"I was at some panels in Copenhagen talking about this problem of migrations and it was
frustrating," Nash said. "It was almost like trying to solve a rubik's cube blindfolded.
Because everybody had his own agenda."

Nash said the focus of his concern was people already suffering from the effects of
climate change rather than the causes of the problem.
"It really doesn't make any difference what type of shark attacked the woman that's
bleeding on the beach," he said. "We need to take care of the bleeding woman."
Nash said the millions affected by climate change suffered because there was no
international law that gave protection to environmental or climate refugees.
"We need to create another organization through the United Nations, or a completely
separate organization that is going to take care of the humanitarian aspects of our
changing climate," he said.

"The United Nations is not prepared for this. And I don't believe there is an organization
right now that can handle what's coming."

"When an environmental disaster takes place, there should be funds moved immediately
to where those people are taken care of, within hours."
Nash cited the earthquake disaster in Haiti as a case in point.
"The earthquake caused the destruction in Haiti. But you know, those people have been
living the last three years with no food," he said.
"The humanitarian crisis that is taking place in Haiti right now should really be an
embarrassment for humankind."


2010 Sundance Film Festival Preview: Climate Refugees

Filed under: film-tv, movies — Elizah Leigh @ 9:32 am

Just utter the terms “global warming” and “climate change” out loud and you’ll stir up a

heated debate with almost anyone you encounter — scientists, politicians, colleagues and

family members included. As our global population continues to question whether man is

truly responsible for the issues that Mother Nature is currently facing, real-life

consequences continue to materialize before our very eyes in the form of environmental

degradation that forces people to relocate en masse for their very survival. When very

unusual seasonal weather patterns end up triggering environmental disasters such as

severe drought-stricken regions, storm surges and rising sea levels to occur, we must be

prepared to deal with a new eco-casualty called the “climate refugee”.

The New York Times recently stated that depending on the global region and specific

eco-conditions, we should anticipate having to account for 200 million climate refugees

in just 40 years time if we continue to operate with a “business as usual” attitude.

According to the Climate Change Vulnerability Index, the regions most likely to be

affected first are Bangladesh, the Maldives (which is now struggling with how to relocate

300,000 people before their island becomes completely submerged), Somalia,

Afghanistan, the Darfur region of Sudan and Haiti which sadly, has already proven to be



(PHOTO)   Filmmakers Justin Hogan and Michael Nash

Filmmaker Michael Nash focuses on this increasingly escalating phenomenon in his

Climate Refugees documentary through a combination of personal testimonials and

jarring video footage. If viewers are not moved by the struggles of people who have had

all of their worldly possessions swept away by the sea, then perhaps Nash’s judicious

editing of 2 years worth of footage documenting the global warming views of authors,

scientists and relief workers will make more of an impact. Offering a comprehensive

perspective of what happens to human beings when they are forced to evacuate their

homes, Climate Refugees stirs profound questions and might even compel the most

resistant naysayer to re-evaluate what really matters — saving lives and ensuring that

future generations have a place that they can call home.


Filmmaker Takes on Plight of 'Climate Refugees' at Copenhagen

Millions Already Fleeing Climate Change -- and It's Likely to Get Worse


NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec. 13, 2009

The United Nations estimates that there are currently about 25 million "climate refugees," people who have had to move from their homeland because of lack of natural resources. The number is greater than both political and religious refugees in the world. Most are in poor, environmentally vulnerable areas, and the number is expected to grow in the next decade by tens of millions.

There are currently about 25 million "climate refugees," people who have had to move from their homeland because of lack of natural resources. 

As developed and developing nations try and work out a climate deal in Copenhagen, award-winning filmmaker Michael Nash will be screening his new documentary film, "Climate Refugees", a project that took him and his film crew around the world for nearly three years documenting the plight of the people who have been forced to migrate, and giving a haunting picture of the future.

They also talked to scientists, aids groups and politicians from both spectrums of the aisle, including Sen John Kerry, D-Mass., and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga. "Climate Refugees" will premiere at next year's Sundance Film Festival.

ABC News asked Nash about the film, the journey and what he hopes people will learn about what he said could be "the greatest challenge mankind's ever going to face."

What is a climate refugee?

A climate refugee is basically someone who is forced to leave their land because they really can no longer survive there, and is forced to move somewhere else.

Climate change, when you really look at it, seems to be really all about water, too much water or too little water. Africa as a continent is a great example of that. There's a lot of parts of Africa that are going through massive droughts right now. They can't grow food. They can't really supply crops for the people who are there. And then you have places like Mozambique, where you have these massive floods. And that's what's happening all over the world that we saw. It's all about water.

What's the basic concept behind your film "Climate Refugees"?

The film really is about the human face of climate change and how the intersection of overpopulation, overconsumption, lack of resources and a changing climate are all colliding now within civilization -- and what's happening is climatic migration. ...

It's interesting because there's a lot of places. ... We travelled around the world for two-and-a-half years documenting the human migration caused by climatic change, and it's a really interesting thing no one's really looking at. People have always kind of migrated, but there's no more available real estate. And now they're crossing borders, which is starting to create conflicts.

In Africa, there are quite a few places that if you trace the root of a conflict, ethnicity may be exploited, but it starts as a fight over resources. Did you find that?

Africa, from a resource-conflict standpoint, really seems to be ground zero -- especially along the [Sahara] desert. The brim of the desert seems to be expanding and challenging people.

But there are other conflicts that are brewing. For example, in Bangladesh [if it] got hit with a large cyclone, or like they did in 1997, or if the sea level rises, you'll have 155 million people, Muslims, who are either going to move into China or India. It doesn't really work.

But initially, from what we saw, the first level of migration will be toward the cities of those countries, but those are countries that are already dealing with a lot of stress to start with. And in time, people are going to start migrating outside of those cities to other places that have resources. People aren't going to cross borders for copper or tin, but they will for water or food.

The number that the experts are throwing out right now is that we currently have 25 million climate refugees. Experts are saying within the next eight to 12 years in Africa, 75 million to 250 million people are basically going to find themselves without water. And they're going to start crossing the Mediterranean looking for places to survive into Europe.

What areas are the most vulnerable?

Really poor countries are going to get hit by this the worst. From a location standpoint, probably the biggest are Africa, parts of Asia, specifically Bangladesh, South America, Australia and the Pacific Islands.

I went to Tuvalu and there are these beautiful little paradises that have sustained life for thousands and thousands of years, and they're starting to go underwater.

Is it only poor nations that will have people migrating because of environmental problems? Are there places in the United States and Europe that are susceptible to this as well?

There certainly are. Alaska, along the eastern and northern brim of Alaska, where all these ... Indian tribes live, they're moving right now. Their villages are falling into the ocean because the shore ice no longer exists during certain seasons. I interviewed one of them and he said, "You know, it's a little scary that within an hour you lose 30 to 50 feet of land."

So it's happening right now in America.

Lester Brown [an author and climate change expert] put it really well in the film, and he said, "Katrina had a million evacuees when the levees broke. Three hundred thousand have not come back." So essentially, he said we have climate refugees within our own country -- 300,000 of them.

What about the argument that it's not only climate change stemming from the actions of industrialized nations, that are causing environmental problems in poorer countries, but also bad commercial and agricultural practices they, themselves, are doing?

Climate change is a threat multiplier, and anything that is kind of bad, [climate change] is only gonna make it worse. If you have in Africa, where people have over-grazed the land, pretty much depleted the nutrients in the land, cut down the trees, that land, in time, becomes desert-like, creating less rain. And you get this runaway effect where it just keeps getting worse

In China, there's a lot of land where they double-crop the land, where they would grow one crop in the spring ... then they grow another crop four or five months later -- and over time, the soil turns to dust and nothing's left to actually grow anything.

What kind of responsibility do richer nations have to help with this problem? What kind of solutions can there be?

There's going to be collateral damage, but we certainly can stop the majority of this. The numbers that people are throwing around are 150 to 250 million climate refugees by 2050. The Christian Science Monitor has the number up to a billion. That's 20 percent of the population, right now.

The solution is complicated because, first of all, everybody has to be on board that it's man-made -- because if the problem's not man-made, you're not going to get any of these countries who are kind of walking from the blame to pay anything.

A German scientist stated in the film that if you created 25 percent of the damages or put 25 percent of the greenhouse gases in the world like the United States did, you would have to take 25 percent of the world's climate refugees. Now, I don't know how you would get that to work, but what I would say from my own standpoint is that it's a really, really interesting time to be a human being because we're being faced with very, very large decisions right now.

What are some solutions to the climate refugee issue?

Part of the solution is to prevent this problem. There's enough sunlight hitting an Algerian desert in a day to power the world for a year. If you just take America, there's enough wind power in North Dakota, Kansas and Texas to power the United States for a year and that's based on wind turbine technology from 1991. So the solutions are there, it's just the choices we have to make and whether we really want to do them or not.

There are a lot of levees that need to be built up, a lot of sea walls, a lot of things like that. Some people are going to have to move. But we can minimize the damage if we get on with it and stop business as usual.

In the film, Sen. John Kerry says that climate change and migration is a national security issue.

We were surprised when he said that, but as we did more digging we found more people echoing his sentiments. We have an ex-admiral and a three-star general who are saying if we don't go green, in the very near future, in the next decade or two, there are going to be parents in America whose children are going to die on battlefields of wars that never needed to be fought, but are being fought because we didn't go green.


CARE co-hosts a new documentary showing the human face of climate change, attracting both Danish celebrities and climate change negotiators.           
Screening of documentary Climate Refugees by Michael Nash. From the left: Director Michael Nash, Koko Warner from UN and Thomas Vinterberg, the director of The Celebration©Reimar Juul

By Troels Kolln
CARE Denmark

Press photographers mobbed Danish celebrities and participants of the climate change conference in Copenhagen walked together down the red carpet Monday to the European premiere of ‘Climate Refugees’ by American filmmaker Michael Nash. The film event, hosted by CARE International and the Tonny Sorensen Foundation, was one of a few showings before its world premiere at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. 

 ‘Climate Refugees‘ investigates the current and future mass migration of people caused by a changing climate, highlighting ‘the human face of climate change’ through personal stories from places such as Tuvalu, Sudan, Bangladesh and New Orleans, USA. Michael spent two years traveling the globe interviewing scholars, politicians and people impacted by climate change to show how massive continental migration is already underway, and how the lack of natural resources threatens the lives of millions of people.

‘As a filmmaker, I simply wanted to illuminate the human face of climate change,’ Michael said. ‘Before filming, I decided that I wanted to look for the truth, and whatever I found on my travels, I would put in the film. That is what this film reflects – climate change is happening, but together we can fix this problem. And it all starts with holding your politicians responsible. We need to start a movement.’

Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen, known from movies such as ‘Casino Royale’ and ‘Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky,’  postponed a trip to Paris to watch the screening. ‘This movie is not about whom to blame for climate change and why it’s happening – but it is about the consequences for human beings. And that’s what it’s all about, ‘he said. ‘I don’t care whether the change in climate is caused by man. It’s changing, and that’s the fact we have to deal with.’

Look into the eyes of those impacted by climate change 
The report ‘In Search of Shelter: Mapping the effects of Climate Change on Human Migration and Displacement’ estimates that there may be more than 200 million environmentally-induced migrants by 2050. Robert Glasser, Secretary-General of CARE, warned the audience during the film’s opening speech that while these numbers are overwhelming, hard facts might not be enough to inspire action against climate change. “How do we convince people that they need to help people survive climate change when climate catastrophes are becoming so frequent that people are getting tired of hearing about them,’ he asked. ‘This film can do it by forcing us look into the eyes of the people that are affected by climate change. Only with films like this can we make a difference.’

To learn more about the film, go to www.climate
For more on CARE and climate change, go to

CARE International is a leading aid organisation with more than 60 years’ experience fighting global poverty and delivering emergency assistance. In 72 countries, CARE works with the poorest communities to improve basic health and education, enhance rural livelihoods and food security, increase access to clean water and sanitation, and expand economic opportunity. Our long-term development assistance and emergency relief initiatives are currently benefiting about 55 million people around the world.


Future in Review (FiRe) 2010 Conference

May 11-14, at Terranea, Palos Verdes

“The best technology conference in the world.”

– The Economist

Publisher’s Note: Last year at FiRe we were fortunate enough to host an advance showing of Louie

Psihoyos’ documentary The Cove, which went on to win an Academy Award. This year, we are proud to

bring our FiRe attendees an equally moving film, albeit on an entirely different subject. Climate Refugees

documents a problem that is global, tragic, growing fast, and, ultimately, personal. I am pleased to

announce that Michael Nash and Executive Producer Stephen Nemeth will be at FiRe for a screening and

group discussion.

Today, most citizens, and their leaders, around the world are convinced both of climate change and of the

human contribution that is increasingly driving this change. The United States is unusual, perhaps, in the

lobbying and PR money spent by oil companies in their “Deny, Delay, and Dither” strategy for facing the

financial aspects of the problem, and perhaps also in the way that some members of the conservative

political spectrum have found solace in denial. In this, they have been unabashedly aided by Rupert

Murdoch’s Fox News.

As filmmaker Michael Nash points out in this week’s issue, the problems documented in this new film

don’t require political allegiance or a particular view on the cause of climate change. He has done a terrific

job of documenting the problem, even today, of millions of people turned into refugees by unexpected, and

often rapid, change in climate.

It is a sad situation, but more important, it threatens the security of all nations. In this, all parties and wings

can unite in recognizing the importance of understanding the scope of the issue, predicting its reach (both

numerically and geographically), and estimating its impact on our own lives. This is what Michael Nash

has done for us.

Michael joins a pantheon of fascinating thought leaders who will be presenting their discoveries and ideas

at FiRe 2010. We recognize that a majority of our members will not be present to see this screening of the

film, but I hope this letter will lead them to find a showing, and to learn more about this issue on their own.

It isn’t going to go away. – mra.


» The Making of the Documentary

Climate Refugees – The Human Face of Climate Change

By Michael Nash

People often ask what inspired me to make the film Climate Refugees. I wish I could state a single point of

reference, but as with most events in our life that seem to take us on a course of change, there is never just

one driver. I can say that the jumping-on point was somewhere between two events – the first was when, in

a 12-day window in August 2004, both Tropical Storm Bonnie and Hurricane Charley slammed into my

hometown of Hutchinson Island, on what is known as the Treasure Coast of Florida. The second, in

October 2005, was reading a news statement by the United Nations University (UNU; Tokyo, Bonn) stating

that there are currently more environmental refugees in the world than refugees from political or religious


In America, the issue of climate change has become so polarized that it can be difficult to read between all

the lines of spin – so from the start, it was my hope to make a film on climate change that would bypass

political partisanship. My goal was to look at the effects, regardless of whether sources of change are

manmade or result from climatic cycles, and document the truth. The focus would be on climatic migration:

Does it exist? Will it exist? Of course, people have been migrating globally for years. But my interest was

in whether the migration numbers were growing measurably due to climate factors.

Little had been written on climate refugees or environmental refugees at the time I started my research. In

fact, Norman Myers, award-winning Oxford and Duke professor, wrote the only document I could find, in

the late ’90s. I spent about seven months reading anything and everything that came close to the topic of

migration caused by climatic or environmental change. There were a couple of blogs and articles on

particular regions, but no real comprehensive books to support the article published by the UNU. All of this

made it difficult to create a package to present to financiers who might help fund the film.

I should note that there is a sometimes subtle distinction between the way the terms “environmental

refugee” and “climate refugee” are used. Examples of environmental refugees would include people

displaced by the Three Gorges Dam incidents in China, the recent catastrophic earthquake in Haiti, or

deforestation of the rain forest – “marked environmental disruption,” whether attributed to human or nonhuman

natural causes. Climate refugees refers only to people who are forced to migrate based on long- or

short-term climatic change, either suddenly or with little notice. As defined by the Global Governance

Project, climate migrations are forced by “at least one of three impacts of climate change: sea-level rise,

extreme weather events, and drought and water scarcity.” While all climatic refugees might also be

considered environmental refugees, the inverse isn’t always the case.

In 2007, I put a crew together that would travel the world in search of areas of climatic migration, climate

refugees, and the human face of climate change. We would head to the four corners of the earth

documenting our findings and interviewing scholars, politicians, scientists, and victims. What I found –

what my film crew found – was more than we had ever anticipated.

Really at the center of this issue is an intersection at which over-population, over-consumption, lack of

resources, and a rapidly changing climate are all colliding with one another for the first time in history. The

outcome: 25 million climate refugees and counting. Experts predict 50 million in just the next couple of

years, and anywhere from 150 million to a billion by 2050.

(Everyone we spoke with – including Rajendra Kumar Pachauri, chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on

Climate Change [IPCC] and head of Yale’s Climate and Energy Institute; and Lester Brown, author and

climate change expert – estimated, in the lowest ranges, at least 150-200 million climate refugees by 2050.

The International Organization for Migration and the Christian Science Monitor project higher estimates,

of up to 1 billion – 20% of today’s population. If these numbers sound high, remember that – as Brown

points out in the film – “Katrina had a million evacuees when the levees broke. Three hundred thousand

have not come back.” So, essentially, we have climate refugees within our own country -- 300,000 from

that single event.)

Climate change is really all about water: too much and too little. Our world has become flat. In simple

terms, 1,000 years ago migrants could move to the next watering hole in order to survive. Today, there is

no more available real estate. Everywhere you look, land has been claimed, and borders support those

claims. There’s also no returning to land that previously sustained crops and is now salinated, post-flood,

unable to produce. The situation of climate refugees who today have no choice but to cross international

borders creates new levels of conflicts.

The Pentagon is now allocating time and money to the national security implications of our changing

climate. (See the New York Times, “Climate Threat Seen as Threat to U.S. Security”:

People won’t evacuate their homelands across borders for tin or copper; but for food and water, they will

go anywhere in order to survive. People who are forced to move for resources will go to those countries

that have the resources they require. In conversation with three-star Army General Claudia Kennedy and

Retired Vice Admiral Lee Gunn, we learned that the military is planning for climate wars and the

humanitarian issues of mass climatic migration.

This is a game changer; this is something we have never experienced. Many experts we spoke with said

they believe that Europe, North America, and Australia will feel more effects of climate change from mass

migration than from increased storms. Currently the UN is trying get its arms around the enormity of this

approaching problem, but as Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the UN Environmental Programme

(UNEP), states in the film: it isn’t currently prepared for countries looking to relocate their entire

population to another region. But this is happening now.

Dr. Koko Warner – head of the Environmental Migration, Social Vulnerability and Adaptation Section at

the UNU Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS) in Bonn, Germany – states that

within the next several decades, we could lose up to 40 Pacific Island nation states. IPCC head Rajendra

Kumar Pachauri states in the film that within the next 8 to 12 years, 75 million to 250 million people will

run out of water in Africa alone. We documented movement into Europe that has already begun, as

witnessed clearly in Spain and Italy.

The UN has officially termed this people “environmentally induced migrants.” Defining such a group in

itself is incredibly difficult. If tagged as refugees, then one could argue that they have been persecuted by

carbon-polluting countries and deserve refugee status and asylum within the confines of the 1951 Geneva

Convention. But currently, there is no international law to protect climate refugees – and tracking them

proved to be very difficult as we worked on the film.

After Cyclone Nargis hit Myanmar in May of 2008, destroying much of Yangon, Myanmar’s main city,

with close to 150,000 fatalities, cyclone climate refugees crossed the borders into Thailand. They would

have found no refuge if they had called themselves climate refugees, or environmental refugees. Only by

defining themselves as political refugees were they allowed entrance into refugee camps.

This was an important discussion line at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP 15) world summit, held

this past December in Copenhagen, where we were invited to screen Climate Refugees before a private

audience of leaders, policymakers, and scientists. Because environmental or climate refugees outnumber

political or religiously persecuted refugees, the UN has great concern that including them in the 1951

Geneva Convention – a convention that has worked well for years – could implode, causing the whole

system to fail.

An interesting conversation took place one night while we were at COP15. Producer Justin Hogan and I

were having drinks with a couple of guys from China. We started talking about America and how America

looks at climate change. I asked them what they thought about America, and what they told me stopped me

in my tracks. They said, “The left wants to save the world, and the right thinks it’s all about money. The

right thinks America’s economy isn’t strong enough to move from an oil-based energy system to an


When I asked them what they thought, they said, “The right is correct – it’s all about money – but they

could not be more incorrect in their interpretation of the money.” I asked “What do you mean?” They

continued: “Make no mistake about it, the world is going green. Nothing would make people like us in

China happier than America continuing this debate for the next 10 or 15 years. Because in 15 years, when

you guys come out of the fog, China will own the revenue stream of the green revolution. We’ve spent a

hundred years trying to catch up with the United States, and we now have the opportunity to blow past you

in a half generation.” I later Googled these guys; they were fairly prominent government officials in China.

In America, if we were to come across an auto accident, and we saw bodies bleeding in the street, the first

thing we would do, as humanitarians, is help the victims. Then we would figure out who caused the

accident, what happened. In terms of climate change, we have done the exact opposite. We have become so

focused on the cause that we are being blinded to the effects.

The rest of the world is far ahead of us on moving forward. Only in America has politics crippled forward

movement. My hope is that Climate Refugees will change that. As Newt Gingrich states in the film: “We

became paralyzed on climate change. This needs to be a red, white, and blue issue, and not a red vs. blue


The film took three years to complete, which included a year of postproduction. Our first screening was in

the Capitol Building, in Washington, D.C., for several senators and members of Congress. A month later

came the screening at Copenhagen’s COP15, hosted by CARE and Planet Illogica. The following month,

the Climate Refugees world premier took place at the Sundance Film Festival, where Robert Redford was

quoted by the New York Times as saying: “Climate Refugees is an agent for social change.” The same

month, we were asked to screen at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Making a film about our changing climate that requires so much world travel is not exactly “green,” from

the point of view of those who believe accelerated climate threats are human-caused. I decided early on in

the project that I would travel alone on several locations and travel with project producer Justin Hogan to

all other locations. In other words, we would hire local crews to avoid flying a big film crew around the


It is a very interesting time to be a human being. Several large answers need to be answered, and many will

give birth to what type of world several future generations will live in. If I have learned anything over the

last three years, it is that climate change isn’t 50 or 100 years away. Climate change is today, and it is

currently affecting tens of millions of people.

I also believe that there are only a few solutions to all of the destruction and migration that is occurring

because of our changing climate. If humankind is causing our climate to change, the only solution is to go

green and minimize our carbon footprint, which would need to include cows as much as cars. If you fall on

the other side, and believe that man isn’t causing climate change and we are suffering the effects of a

climatic cycle – well, then, our proactive solutions are still mitigation (building sea walls, levees, and lots

of other things in that realm), adaptation (some people are going to have to move), and possibly prayer. But

in any case, we can minimize the damage if we get on with finding and acting on solutions, and stop

“business as usual” behavior.

Personally, I think we need to do all of the above. We live in a world – or a country – that is driven less by

prevention than by crisis management. Nothing happens until the house is on fire. Those on the “right” who

claim that the “left” is alarmist, selling doom – well, I would recommend that they openly look at the other

side of the coin.

Saying that man isn’t causing this grave threat doesn’t minimize it. It doesn’t make the issues go away. In

fact, it makes the issues much larger. If man isn’t causing this destruction, and a natural cycle is, how much

more do we have to do to try to fix it? Nothing in my findings would be more alarming than if this were the


But regardless of causes, we are going to have to deal with the effects of climate change. And the longer we

wait, the larger the effects will be, and the more money it will cost. No one will win by waiting.

I look forward to meeting all of you at FIRE.

About Michael Nash

Multi-award–winning filmmaker Michael Nash has been

involved in the entertainment industry for a decade. Recently,

Michael was hand-picked along with the likes of Steve Wozniak

(co-founder of Apple Computers), John Chambers (founder and

CEO of Cisco Systems), Carlos Santana (musician), and Richard

Newton (dean of UC Berkeley) to be the recipient of the Global

Innovation Award.

It is Michael’s cutting-edge innovation and his

passion to tell stories that so few filmmakers will

attempt that has garnished him such high

accolades. Michael has recently directed the

global documentary titled Climate Refugees, a

film the United Nations screened in Copenhagen

for the leaders of the world. There Michael was

also highlighted as an expert on panels regarding

environmental migration and the human face of

climate change. Climate Refugees had its world

premiere at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival and

was called out by Robert Redford as one of the

most important films at Sundance, naming the

film “an agent for social change.” Senator Barbara Boxer states, “It’s films like Climate

Refugees and An Inconvenient Truth that truly are the wind that will fill the sails to America

signing a green energy bill.”

Michael’s first feature film was the critically acclaimed Fuel, which won top feature film

honors, including the Grand Jury Award in Europe. He has created a digital-video exploration montage for

the Getty Museum and been involved in several television programs, development deals, and music videos.

Currently Michael has two TV shows in pre-production, one with Fremantle (of American Idol and

America’s Got Talent) and the second with Grosso/Jacobson and CAA.

Copyright © 2010 Strategic News Service and Michael Nash. Redistribution prohibited without written permission.

I want to thank Michael, first, for making this film. It was no doubt difficult, expensive, and discouraging

throughout the project. We are fortunate, as SNS members and as a society, that we have people willing to

tell hard truths, when it is so much easier to look away. I won’t spoil the film by describing its conclusion,

but I will say that there are several possible scenarios for what happens to these refugees. And anyone

watching the slow-motion, do-nothing approach of the world to today’s Darfur refugees will have no

trouble imagining the most brutal possible response by the world’s most developed nations: doing nothing.

Perhaps, with the advance knowledge that he is providing us in this look forward, we can do just a bit better

than that.

Your comments are always welcome.


Mark R. Anderson


Strategic News Service LLC

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