We all love a good disaster movie (or at least I do). Nearly all scientists disdained the weather disaster movie Day After Tomorrow when it came out a couple of years ago. And, although the premise may hold some truth to it about climate change and the currents that drive our weather patterns, the movie’s all-out Armageddon-like display strained credulity on many levels.
As the reality of climate change and the new normal of our climate reality take hold, there are far too many who still believe (or delude themselves) that climate change is somehow a poorly conceived theory put forward by a bunch of coal-hating pseudo scientists–and Bill Nye the Science Guy. Paper after paper, report after report come out presenting incontrovertible evidence that climate change is here, here to stay, and almost at a point of no return.
As we watch more an more extreme weather unfold before our eyes: record after record topple: snow depths, lopsided polar vortices that render Alaska warmer than Tennessee, droughts that create drinking water shortages and wildfires the size of which we never imagined, heat waves that defy memory, it is easy to pass these all off as “weather events” that cannot be tied to climate change. And to a certain degree, that’s true. One F-5 tornado, one drought season, one anomalous hurricane, one devastating 100-year flood do not make in and of themselves proof of climate change.
These individual weather events do not occur simultaneously, or even in one season–and certainly not in one place. But taken as a whole, a pattern is emerging that climate scientists and meteorologists are beginning to find irrefutable. And although science is no longer in question, lots and lots of people do question, and whether it’s denial or a belief that somehow this is God’s fate for us, or that climate change is caused by trees (which it is, but only in the context of deforestation and uncontrollable wildfires, which both add to the carbon dioxide load in the atmosphere).
I have to wonder if all these record-setting weather events were put into a disaster movie and we crunched the timeline (because we know that’s what movies do), what people might think of climate change. Imagine the opening scene: long track killer tornadoes rip through the Midwest; floods submerge the Florida Keys and South Beach, while 200,000-acre wildfires rage from San Diego to Western Washington in the grip of a drought that begins battles over a diminishing water supply. Alaska sizzles in the midst of a 95-degree August, and the last of the Arctic sea ice disappears as Polar Bears seek food in costal communities, no longer able to live in the sea. Hurricanes rip up the Mid-Atlantic region and the corn crops fail in the breadbasket because of record-setting heat. And that’s only here in the U.S.
It’s a shame that the science of Day After Tomorrow was so shabby, because the film actually does have a point, and a good one–a cautionary tale worth hearing. And although we’re not about to have a new and abrupt Ice Age, there is something happening to the world’s weather, and it’s not good. But if you want really excellent fiction about what the future might hold, try Kim Stanley Robinson’s chilling novel trilogy that begins with Forty Signs of Rain.
In the meantime, cable news media aren’t helping–fostering debates by talking heads arguing about the merits of climate change, and covering polls that suggest that Americans don’t consider climate change a priority (as if that really matters). There is no debate. Full stop. Done. Over. John Oliver in his wonderful HBO late Sunday night spoofy news show Last Week Tonight got it right, while slamming news for its “balanced” coverage:
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