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Rising Waters

For 7 million people living on thousands of islands scattered across the Pacific ocean, global warming is not something that looms in the distant future: it's a threat whose first effects may have already begun.

Through personal stories of Pacific Islanders, RISING WATERS: Global Warming and the Fate of the Pacific Islands puts a human face on the international climate change debate.

The majority of scientists around the world now agree that global warming is real, and key studies show that the tropical Pacific islands will be hit first and hardest by its effects. The water temperature in the tropical Pacific has risen dramatically over the last two decades, bleaching coral and stressing marine ecosystems. Sea level rise threatens to inundate islands, and extreme weather events -- such as more frequent and intense El Ninos, severe droughts, and mega hurricanes -- could wipe out ecosystems and the way of life that has existed for thousands of years.

In the program, islanders show the viewers the physical and cultural impacts caused by global warming. Unusual high tides have swept the low-lying atolls of Micronesia, destroying crops and polluting fresh water supplies. Ancestral graveyards are being destroyed by the impacts of rogue waves and erosion never witnessed before the last decade. An increase in the frequency and intensity of hurricanes is making it difficult for island communities and ecosystems to recover.

But the islanders' stories have not convinced everyone in the rest of the world. Some scientists refute the studies, and business leaders and economists warn that forcing industries to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions will cause a global economic collapse.

While the policy makers and scientists argue about when and how much to reduce greenhouse gas emissions over the next twenty years, many Pacific Islanders are wondering if they will have a future. One thing is known: the longer emission reductions are delayed, the harder it will be to curb the effects of global warming, and prevent sea level rise from devastating the Pacific Islands.

What, then, should the islanders do? Whom should they believe? Where would they go if forced to leave their homes? RISING WATERS explores what it means to live under a cloud of scientific uncertainty, examining both human experience and expert scientific evidence. The problems facing the islanders serve as an urgent warning to the rest of the world.

Locations include Kiribati, the Samoas, Hawai'i, the atolls of Micronesia including the Marshall Islands, as well as laboratories and research centers in the continental United States. RISING WATERS weaves the portraits of the islanders with historical film and video materials, interviews with top scientists, and voiceover. 3D animation is used to illustrate key scientific concepts.

'Perhaps it is no great wonder that the issue of global warming appears so remote to most U.S. citizens. The front lines of the crisis, and even the venues of the debate are so remote...The brilliance of this film is that it brings these front lines into your living room.' The Amicus Journal

'Hauntingly beautiful, this groundbreaking film is a quantum leap from pedantic environmental films...revealing a remarkable pan-Pacific effort to save entire nations...utilizing new science and a fresh idiom.' MountainFilm Festival Program

'A successful tool to illustrate the effect of industrialization on our global ecosystem...Recommended' Barb Butler, Oregon Institute of Marine Biology, MC Journal

'The documentary treats global warming itself as an anthropogenic catastrophe in the making. Indeed, the strength of this approach to global warming is the human and cultural dimension that this film highlights.' H-NET MULTIMEDIA REVIEWS, published by (June, 2002), Reviewed for H-Environment by Douglas Sackman, University of Puget Sound


Main credits

Torrice, Andrea (aud)
Torrice, Andrea (Producer)
Torrice, Andrea (Director)
Nishikawa, Lane (Narrator)

Other credits

Directors of photography, Gary Mercer, Bill Turnley; editor, Matt Dibble.

Docuseek2 subjects

Distributor subjects

Climate Change/Global Warming
Developing World
Global Issues
Indigenous Peoples
Oceans and Coasts
Pacific Studies
Social Psychology
Sustainable Development


global warming, Pacific Islands,; El Nino, hurricanes, Micronesia, Marshall Islands, greenhouse gas emissions, Kiribati, Samoa, Hawai'i; "Rising Waters"; Bullfrog Films