Tuesday, June 08, 2004

The Day After Tomorrow *****Spoiler Alert***** It may be a preposterous bit of pseudoscience, but it is a movie nonetheless and I will be revealing certain details of the plot that you may not want to read if you're planning on seeing it. So stop reading now if you don't want to know how it turns out.

During my recent vacation I took some time to see the film. Not bad. It certainly holds your interest for two hours, which is all I really expect from mindless, big-budget disaster flicks. The special effects are good, particularly the one where a giant tidal wave destroys New York City, and the characters are just interesting enough to make you overlook their largely preposterous dialogue.

You'd have to be made of stone not to get a little choked up when Dennis Quaid, after trekking through arctic-like conditions for hundreds of miles (a trek during which one of his closest friends manages to die very heroically) to keep a promise he made to his son, arrives at the New York Public Library and finds that his son is still alive.

Early in the film, dozens of people take shelter in the library to avoid the tidal wave. When there seems to be a break in the storm, most of those people leave in at attempt to get out of Manhattan. They do this despite the fact that Dennis Quaid's son warns them that his father (a paleoclimatologist) has told him (in a telephone call they completed before the phones went dead), that the storm is about to get much worse, and that anyone who leaves the library will freeze to death. It later becomes clear that everyone who left the library did, indeed, freeze to death. Message: Ignore the scientist, and YOU DIE! A fine moral message, I'd say.

You also have to love the fact that is an openly atheistic character who sees the importance of preserving a copy of the Guttenburg Bible. He says (roughly) “If Western civilization as we know it is about to be destroyed, then I am going to preserve one little piece of it.”

I didn't care for the fact that Bush is presented as strong and decisive. But Cheney is quite properly presented as evil and short-sighted.

Of course, this movie has garnered so much attention because it sort of deals with global warming. Some have been trying to use the film as a warning about the reality of global warming, while others have argued that the scenario the film describes is so absurd that it will lead to a backlash against more realistic scenarios of global warming.

I must say, while watching the movie itself such arguments seem kind of silly. There is very little science, pseudo or otherwise, in the movie. Occasionally a character will look at a bizarre computer graphic and look alarmed, saying something like “ My God! It's pulling air directly from the upper troposphere!” but that's about it. Mostly it's dopey, escapist fun, and it's hard to believe anyone who has actually seen the film dwelling on it for very long after leaving the theater.

But the Right is clearly worried. Using tones normally reserved for “liberals” “media elites” and “secularists”, they have piled on this movie with gusto.

Phylis Schlafly warns that

Global warming isn't science; it's leftist propaganda to promote global regulation of our economy. If the predictions of the movie were true, it is obvious that absolutely nothing we could do - even abandoning every automobile in America - would make any difference.

Fellow Town Hall columnist Rich Lowry doesn't entirely agree, commenting that:

That said, global warming is a fact. The surface temperature has gone up roughly 1 degree Celsius since the mid-19th century. The warming during the past 30 years might even be partly a result of manmade emissions. But we're talking very small and gradual changes that aren't causing the disruptions environmentalists sometimes hype, like extreme weather or dangerously rising sea levels.

Of course, the whole point is to deal with global warming before the changes become dramatic enough to be noticeable.

Lowry quickly descends into silliness, however, by writing:

Any regulatory fix will have only the slightest effect. Climatologist Patrick Michaels estimates that the Kyoto Treaty -- McCain-Lieberman is a watered-down version of the treaty -- would prevent only 0.07 degrees Celsius of warming over the next 50 years.

As soon as you see a right-winger quote Patrick Michaels, stop reading. He exists solely as a credentialed source for anti-global warming propaganda. The Climate Network has the goods on him:

Michaels has disputed that the hundreds of thousands of dollars he receives in funding from the fossil fuel industry results in scientific bias. His so-called "research reviews" are aimed at influencing policy makers and the general public but are funded by the Western Fuels Association. He has also accepted funding from Edison Electric Institute, the German Coal Mining Association and Cyprus Minerals Company.

In 1991 Michaels was on the Science Advisory Panel of the former Information Council on the Environment (ICE), an organization whose goal was “to reposition global warming as theory (not fact)”. The Southern Company, Western Fuels Association and Edison Electric Company ran ICE specifically to target key congressional districts in the US with misinformation about climate change.

Scientifically, Michaels' credibility barely passes muster. His work on pattern detection of climate change is seriously flawed, according to peer review by the IPCC. Michaels believes that there is no signal for human induced climate change in the observed data. IPCC scientists, however, conclude “There are a number of serious problems with this [Michaels'] analysis”, and presented a detailed discussion of the matter in WG1 of the SAR.

In a recent statement, Dr. Tom Wigley, a lead author of WGI Chapter 8, says: “Michaels' arguments are irrelevant, and merely expose his ignorance or deliberate misrepresentation” of the science. Wigley eloquently remarks, “Michaels' misguided attempt to shoot down a single swallow will not make the summer go away.”

Michaels' real motivation is shown by his statement to the Coal Producer's Conference in Australia in May 1996: “Any attempt to force emissions reductions will impose further stringencies on economic machines that are already well-oiled. There is clearly advantage to some, decadally stagnant economies [referring to European countries] if they can by force of the UN or other international law reduce the productivity of the competition [referring to the USA and Australia].”

Lowry concludes by noting:

“The Day After Tomorrow” might not be much of a movie, but it is useful for providing a glimpse into the soul of left-wing environmentalism. Pretty chilling.

Actually, Michaels himself offers his own thoughts in the USA TODAY:

This isn't Hollywood's first attempt to scare people into its way of thinking. How about Jane Fonda in the 1979 anti-nuclear-power flick, The China Syndrome?

Twelve days after its release, the accident at Three Mile Island occurred. Despite the fact that it released only tiny amounts of radiation, the politics of that hysteria effectively killed any new nuclear plant.

Analogize the Western drought to Three Mile Island, and you get the idea.

Or how about the 1983 movie The Day After, whose purpose was to strengthen the nuclear-freeze movement. It failed.

The Day After Tomorrow is only one more day than The Day After, and it deserves the same fate. Lies cloaked as science should never determine how we live our lives.

No one who has seen the movie would claim that anything in it is cloaked as science. Incidentally, the small author bio at the end of this article points out that Michaels has a new book coming out, entitled Meltdown: The Predictable Distortion of Global Warming by Scientists, Politicians and the Media. You can put this book right alongside Dinesh D'Souza's, mentioned in the previous post. Titles like this are the trademark of books written by right-wing hacks.

Compare this overwrought hand-wringing with Al Gore's entirely sensible comment on the same issue:

There are two sets of fiction to deal with. One is the movie, the other is the Bush administration's presentation of global warming.

Exactly right.


At 12:05 PM, Blogger Tman said...

Just out of curiosity, what do you propose IS the scientific consensus concerning Global Warming, and how much of this warming does the scientific community conclude came from man made sources?

If I remember correctly, in the late 70's, the scientific community consensus was that the world was COOLING, so I am a bit apprehensive when someone mentions "scientific consensus" in terms of Global Warming.

Considering the fact that less than 7% of all carbon dioxide emissions are from man made sources (which would explain why the planet has had global warming in the recent past without the effects from the industrial revolution), I fail to see how changing these numbers will alter the inevitable climate change in any significant way.

Nor am I saying that we shouldn't strive to lower the pollution from carbon based fuel emissions.

The problem is, global WARMING has become the political mantra, when that's not really the problem. Global POLLUTION in the air IS a problem. And using some global disaster film to further obscure this difference is not helping.

I would be interested in any scientific journal that has been able to prove that man-made emissions are responsible for the change in global temperature average.

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I had really big expectations on this movie, but at the end, it was a complete failure... I think this is no more than the industry trying to get some benefit from people's insane idea of the apocalypse coming. if69

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