Dramatic Climate Change
March 15, 2004 8:03 AM   Subscribe

Dramatic Climate Change. The director who brought us aliens blowing up the White House has now turned his sights on climate change. In a very dramatic way. Will this highly sensationalized and unrealistic presentation of global warming have any impact on public attitudes? Are we looking at a possible a tipping point, or is director Roland Emmerich jumping the shark?
posted by alms (33 comments total)
if water world couldn't do it, i don't think any movie can.
posted by Stynxno at 8:07 AM on March 15, 2004

From IMDB:

At the center of the story is a paleoclimatologist, Professor Adrian Hall, who tries to save the world from the effects of global warming while also trying to get to his son, Sam, who was in New York City as part of a scholastic competition, when the city was overwhelmed by the chilling beginnings of the new Ice Age.

Yes, that sounds like it will definitely lend much credibility to global warming in the minds of viewers of this movie.

GOOD LORD! The glaciers are coming towards New York at break-neck speed!

Also, back to that plotline, "tries to save the world from the effects of GW?" Somehow, I have the feeling that, like most bad-science movies, there will be a rosy ending where either the people of Earth find a way to stop global warming in the span of a year OR civilization gets screwed but there are some survivors who declare the day that global warming happened as "The World's Independence Day!" Regardless, I will pay to see this movie.
posted by crazy finger at 8:38 AM on March 15, 2004

Day After Tomorrow: like Independence Day, but with bad weather instead of aliens.
posted by weston at 8:42 AM on March 15, 2004

Weston- are you saying that the plot somehow involves the government using a secret weather-machine to save the world?
posted by crazy finger at 8:47 AM on March 15, 2004

Let me guess: the weather system will be hacked by a really obnoxious pseudo-geek with a Mac.
posted by Foosnark at 8:49 AM on March 15, 2004

Also, back to that plotline, "tries to save the world from the effects of GW?"

The first time I read this, I mentally filled in a "Bush" behind the GW. Now that I think about it, that might not be a bad nickname for him: "Global Warming Bush"
posted by Slothrup at 8:51 AM on March 15, 2004

Damn... I'm supposed to go up there this weekend... better pack a 2nd sweater.

And some water wings.
posted by BobFrapples at 9:00 AM on March 15, 2004

Art Bell and Whitley Strieber! Great, the credibility of anybody working on GW issues is going to go down the crapper. What pisses me off is that the people that are making this film could have chosen actual scientifically-based research and predictions and made a much scarier film. Instead, this will be the kind of thing that makes people feel like GW is as likely as aliens or asteroids. God I hate Hollywood.
posted by crazy finger at 9:04 AM on March 15, 2004

About half way through the trailer I already could tell it was by the guys who did Independance Day... and then I saw it in writing at the end.
posted by LoopSouth at 9:05 AM on March 15, 2004

Sounds interesting. As an atheist, I rushed to see The Passion of The Christ. As a global warming skeptic, I'll be rushing to see this movie for the same reason. Woohoo! I can't wait!
posted by shepd at 9:07 AM on March 15, 2004

shepd, if you are a GW skeptic, I recommend that you don't see this movie to be unskepticized. Instead, spend some time with some climate scientists. I'm sure that there are Professors at some local University that wouldn't mind speaking with you for half an hour about it. You could ask them anything you want!

Also, did The Passion convert you back from heathenry?
posted by crazy finger at 9:27 AM on March 15, 2004

As a global warming skeptic, I'll be rushing to see this movie for the same reason.

... shepd admits to the mefi crowd where he gets does his research form his well informed opinions.
posted by specialk420 at 9:35 AM on March 15, 2004

Yeah, but specialk, where'd you get your phrasing from? My brain hurts.

I have a feeling that this one is going to pan out without a happy ending or particularly jingoistic tone. No real evidence, just a hunch... (though I note no big name for the Pres in this...)

And the film will probably be fun in the meantime.
posted by klaatu at 10:01 AM on March 15, 2004

...or is director Roland Emmerich jumping the shark?

If there is a shark, "director" Roland Emmerich jumped it long ago.
posted by pardonyou? at 10:19 AM on March 15, 2004

This reminds me of when I left the theater after watching Oliver Stone's "JFK" with my then girlfriend, who was sweet, but not very well informed. She swallowed it hook line and sinker. It's not that I think that the movie was complete garbage, or particularly revelatory. What I found disturbing was her willingness to let one director completely shape her view of a complicated subject over the course of 3 hours.
posted by 2sheets at 10:28 AM on March 15, 2004

Sweet, sweet disaster porn.

The movie's web site has some additional info and links to global warming news stories.
posted by kirkaracha at 10:46 AM on March 15, 2004

The fun of movies like this is watching places you've been to destroyed. You see a meteor smash a street corner and turn to your friend and say "I totally bought a hot dog on that street corner last week!"
posted by Karmakaze at 11:01 AM on March 15, 2004

Wouldn't a sad movie work better?
Something like a historical retrospective: "This is what New Orleans looked like before it was submerged. This is what Amsterdam looked like..."

In other words, play the "future nostalgia" angle.
posted by kablam at 1:41 PM on March 15, 2004

I'd just like to note, as a metrology/climatology university student, that I am going to love this movie, for the pure "disaster porn" and horrible science factoids that will likely make it up (hey, I thought Twister was decent entertainment, and I just love a good apocalypse flick/book/etc so you see my standards).

I do find it interesting however that it seems they're using the "global warming will cause another glaciation" theory that's more recently been put forth (link is to a pretty basic, concise explanation of the idea, of course there is more and more still) . That and the fact that the official site is so heavy on the "real weather links" makes me wonder if there is some consideration of science at the heart of a very sensationalist movie that speeds up events that happen on a geological time scale to fit in the attention spans of movie audiences.

And then I realize it doesn't really matter anyway, people will react to a movie, one way or the other. I'd think debate about the science should probably wait until the movie is available for viewing (well, besides the fact that tidal waves are the spawn of tectonic activity and not global weather. Unless the angle is increased volcanic/tectonic activity is increasing particulates in the atmosphere, eventually leading to more cloud cover, climate cooling from sunlight reflection, etc and therefore we have tidal waves AND global climate change, but somehow I doubt it will be presented as even that complex).
posted by nelleish at 2:27 PM on March 15, 2004

I'm with Nelleish. It's hype, but fun and seemingly well intentioned. My favorite quote from the site, by the director: "The movie is fiction; we'd like to keep it that way."
posted by alms at 2:40 PM on March 15, 2004

There has been some discussion about defending our planet from asteroids after "Armageddon" and "Deep Impact". At least the first movie was neither scientific nor, in my opinion, very good. So I'm cautiously optimistic about movies raising public awareness.

On another note, I think disaster movies are in for a second golden age. Just imagine all those disaster movies from the 70s with awful special effects, just waiting to be remade with today's technology! The world may also be ready for stories about people helping each other against a common threat, rather than fighting each other.
posted by Triplanetary at 3:01 PM on March 15, 2004

The world may also be ready for stories about people helping each other against a common threat, rather than fighting each other. -- Triplanetary

You would say that, but you're clearly just a shill for the Lensmen, pack of dictators and thugs that they are. Now the common threat is earthquakes and global warming, tomorrow it'll be the hard-working pharmaceutical industry of Boskone.

(does this mean that me and the rest of the Culture are Boskone? yes. yes, it does, by Klono's rusty testes)
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 3:15 PM on March 15, 2004

"...What pisses me off is that the people that are making this film could have chosen actual scientifically-based research and predictions and made a much scarier film." - crazyfinger, that would have been very hard for that fact that serious researchers in the field rarely make any statement that isn't heavily qualified. There's so much to learn about the earth's climate system that - beyond simply stating the fact the fact that it's now known that sudden climate change has happened many times in the earth's past - no serious research scientist who works in this field would make the mistake of getting their name involved with a Hollywood disaster-porn flick like this. It could ruin or damage a career.

The dry (insider) commentary - off record, of course - would likely be "well, ummm, that's possible I suppose....just not very likely."

But there is an underlying, deeper truth here -

It's generally acknowledged, by scientists working in this field, that if a shift as large and rapid as the Older Dryas or Younger Dryas shifts were to happen, well - there's a very good chance that our civilization would break down. ...Although, as one of these shifts kicked in I doubt that the glaciers would be instantly bearing down on NYC. Still, within 10 years, NYC would have a very, very different climate than currently - anywhere up to, I'd say, 5 degrees celsius cooler (the Dryas shifts were up to 10 celsius, but it's unlikely, for various reasons, that NYC would get all of that).

This Hollywood climate-porn seems to be based on a Dryas-magnitude shift, and a shift of that magnitude is considered very unlikely.

A smaller shift is a much more likely scenario : The Pentagon's Sudden Climate Change "secret" report's scenario was predicated a smaller shift the the Dryas ones - one happened between 8 and 9 thousand years ago - but, even so, the assessment of that report was not especially rosy.

Further - and here's where Art Bell and Whitley Strieber's book comes in (I've read it - I think it was written with Hollywood in mind. Strieber was, however, WAY ahead of the curve on this one. He picked up on this story quite early, all things considered) :

The "epiphenomenon" (if there are any major of these) which might accompany a sudden climate shift are unknowns in the equation. Strieber (it's mostly Strieber, I'm sure - Bell provided the early publicity for the book) hypothesized a "superstorm" mechanism which resulted from ocean circulation shutdown and, in turn, set off the next ice age by burying most of the Northern Hemisphere in ice and snow.

Strieber's superstorm - still sensationalized - addresses the question of how the earth's climate could cool (or warm, on the other side of the equation, the sudden warming which pulled the Earth out of the Younger Dryas period.) so suprisingly fast as has been discovered to have happened.

As far as I can tell, no reputable scientists in the field have ventured a mechanism so specific, but those who have actually have posited something not unlike Strieber's - excepting the "superstorm" - instead of the "superstorm", say, the Northern hemisphere just gets cooler, as the ocean currents stop pumping heat up fropm the equation to the northern latitudes, and these latitudes also get an awful lot of snow over the course of a single, or several , years - so much snow, in fact, that some of it doesn't melt during summer. So, the albedo of the earth changes, and more of the Sun's energy is reflected back out into space.

Presto! - mini ice age!

So, Strieber's "superstorm" idea is far from nuts. It's just sensationalized (we hope). That's what Strieber does, as a writer. But, despite that, he's extremely smart and has an excellent grasp of the basic science, as far as I can tell. There's, at least, a solid conceptual foundation, underneath the sensationalism, to his "superstorm" book.

I exchanged some emails, a couple of years ago, with a guy who was doing supercomputer modelling in the field - wouldn't a shutdown of ocean circulation require increased atmospheric heat transport? (I asked) - yes, you are correct, he replied. It's simply a question of degree, of how MUCH increased atmospheric heat transport, and that shouldn't be all that difficult to calculate - a moderate amount, and we'd have increased wind and storminess. A huge amount, and we actually could get something like Strieber's "superstorm"
posted by troutfishing at 3:35 PM on March 15, 2004

Hollywood creates a star-studded, action-packed, f/x-laden blockbuster that is fictional. Sounds like any other summer flick to me!
posted by davidmsc at 5:06 PM on March 15, 2004

troutfishing, first off, thank you for your comment. You seem to give Streiber some credibility regarding this work, but after his alien-abduction books came out, it's hard for me to put his later work into perspective.
posted by gen at 5:10 PM on March 15, 2004

This movie looks like it'll be awesome - I've been looking forward to it for months!
posted by josh at 6:23 PM on March 15, 2004

So that's what it's about. Here I was thinking it was a sequel to The Day After. It's been twenty years ... how many cockroach generations is that?
posted by aeschenkarnos at 9:51 PM on March 15, 2004

I saw this trailer last fall, at one of the Times Square theaters. The first trailer was for Return of the King, and the crowd spontaneously burst into applause. Then this trailer came on, and it was pretty funny when the buildings in LA were being blown over, but then you see that tidal wave hitting Grand Central Station and a lull fell over the crowd. It was like, great, now I have that to worry about.

How about a good, old-fashioned getting-laid-during-the-blackout movie?
posted by subgenius at 11:54 PM on March 15, 2004

Gen - you're welcome. "You seem to give Streiber some credibility regarding this work, but after his alien-abduction books came out, it's hard for me to put his later work into perspective." - Strieber was writing about environmental themes a long time ago, before he got on the alien abduction bandwagon ( I have a cousin who says he was abducted, but anyway... ) . See Nature's End". His predictions, in that book, about the impacts of Global Warming now compare somewhat favorably with mainstream scientific forecasts. Strieber seems to be a sort of amateur meteorologist, and I think he has a good sense of the mechanics of weather and climate up to a point. As I said - aliens and sensationalism aside - he's a very smart guy. Meanwhile - I'm on a listserve of a group which is trying to promote public awareness of Global Warming and Global Climate Change, and they are very conflicted as to whether this movie is an appalling setback or a good thing.
posted by troutfishing at 9:27 AM on March 16, 2004

Strieber's delusions about alien abduction and embarrassing anal-probe fantasies haven't deprived him of his ability to do what he started out doing--writing workmanlike science fiction and popular science journalism.

The Coming Global Superstorm is a work of speculation based on some of the research being done. It's actually pretty competent and professionally written (I agree that Strieber must have done most of the actual writing, but Art Bell was thinking and speculating about this stuff for a long time on his own, so his ideas and feedback may well entitle him to his co-author status as much as his bully platform on late-night radio).

As for The Day After Tomorrow? My guess is that it's a work of serious scientific speculation along the lines of Krakatoa, East of Java.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:35 AM on March 16, 2004

I have a MUCH better enviro-disaster plot, which I've written up as a Hollywood screenplay.

It involves a spooky psychic child, Islamic and Christian prophets, and pentacostalists like konolia, but spooky, speaking in tongues....and an ecumenical religious conspiracy to bring on the Apocalypse. And a giant tidal wave 1000 feet high. And Al Qaeda. It will have all the usual lurching violence, too, and nefarious charactors......and Bruce Willis, of course.

But is the tidal wave really a tidal wave.....or a metaphor for something else?.......
posted by troutfishing at 9:38 AM on March 16, 2004

Sidhedevil - I'll have to defer to you on that then, and take back my slur against Art Bell - I'm not a faithful or even an occasional listener. Who knows - maybe HE pitched the book idea to Strieber? Sorry, Art.
posted by troutfishing at 9:43 AM on March 16, 2004

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