Mooney on The Day After Tomorrow Chirs Mooney has weighed in on the upcoming disaster movie The Day After Tomorrow. You can find his column here. This film has come under attack for producing sicence fiction that is mostly fiction and almost no science. Mooney's analysis is characteristically insightful:
On the one hand, physicist Robert Frosch, a former administrator of NASA during the Carter administration and now at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, wasn't so psyched about the film. “Even some of the guys who figured out what the big disasters might be are getting very impatient with the disaster merchants,” said Frosch, who has contributed to several National Academy of Sciences reports concerning climate change. “I think the whole community is annoyed with whoever the producers of the new Hollywood thing are.”
But James McCarthy, the Alexander Agassiz professor of biological oceanography at Harvard and a lead contributor to the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, saw things somewhat differently. “In the actual production of the movie, some people have said, 'Are we creating such a farcical image of future climate that it will serve to distract people from the real climate news?',” said McCarthy, an expert on climate change impacts. “Others have said, 'No, anything you can do to get people's attention on climate is worth doing.'”
It's not hard to see the strength of this argument. The fact is, climate change, like many science issues, only rarely rises to the top of the media or political agenda, and usually at times of clear drama or conflict. Thus, for example, over the past four years there have been several occasions when the Bush administration has been more or less broadsided by expert reports showing that climate change is happening--and when that happens, the press has seized upon the gaffe, at least for a little while.
Sustained attention to the issue, however, has been unjustifiably rare, given the potential ramifications. And that's why, unlike climate change contrarian Patrick Michaels, I'm not inclined to slam the science of The Day After Tomorrow and simply leave it at that. It seems to me that while climate scientists have a responsibility to explain that the film rests on bad climate science, they should also explain that there's good climate science out there that's very worrisome. Al Gore himself may have put it best when he stated, with respect to The Day After Tomorrow, that “there are two sets of fiction to deal with. One is the movie, the other is the Bush administration's presentation of global warming.”
It is unfortunate that we can't have a movie that gets people interested in the realities of global warming, but also presents science that is tolerably accurate.