The Week That Was
May 15, 2004

This issue of TWTW is all about the climate-horror movie The Day After Tomorrow, to be released on May 28. We have written several times about TDAT [see TWTW of March 6, 2004], but we need to prepare ourselves for this event.

To start with

1. New on the Web: A REVIEW OF THE BOOK THE COMING GLOBAL SUPERSTORM, WHICH BECAME THE BASIS OF TDAT, plus a little background on its weird co-authors Art Bell and Whitley Streiber. Pat Michaels reviewed it in January 2000 under the headline "The Global Stupidstorm
2. TDAT is worse than the so-called Pentagon Report, described in TWTW [March 6, 2004]. READ: "BLAST-FROZEN NONSENSE" BY GREGG EASTERBROOK







2. Blast-Frozen Nonsense
by Gregg Easterbrook
TNR Online, 05.10.04

In 1993, CBS aired a miniseries of preposterous exaggeration about global warming, The Fire Next Time. A smart writer--okay, me--wrote of the show:
The CBS miniseries depicted a man and boy attempting to travel the Mississippi River in an ecologically ruined United States of the year 2007, a world of searing warmth, sustained droughts, hyper-storms and dangerous exposure to bad dialogue. Conservative critics were aghast, saying the film indoctrinated audiences with greenhouse scenarios far worse than any projected by the most pessimistic computer model. My reaction was the opposite. By trivializing the greenhouse effect into a subject as ludicrous as the premise of a television miniseries, The Fire Next Time served mainly to convince audiences the prospect of global warming is just another Hollywood gimmick, which unfortunately it may not be.

Preposterous Hollywood mistreatment of global-warming science is about to return in the movie The Day After Tomorrow, a big-budget disaster flick that premieres Memorial Day weekend. Directed by the guy who did the big-budget sci-fi disaster flick Independence Day, the new film--you can watch the trailer here--is being promoted as based on science. Will this have the backfire effect of making the real and troubling science of artificial global warming seem like science fiction?

In The Day After Tomorrow, climate change caused by artificial greenhouse-gas accumulation initiates a preposterous instant planet-wide calamity. Enormous mega-tornadoes larger than any ever actually observed in nature appear from nowhere to level the city of Los Angeles. Hail larger than any ever actually observed in nature smashes Tokyo to ruins. The Antarctic ice sheets melt essentially instantaneously, creating a global tsunami that floods the world's coastal cities. Then, just three days after the instantaneous melting of the ice caps, an instantaneous ice age hits northern latitudes, freezing the seawater that flooded coastal cities and leaving Manhattan under an instant glacier.

In a moment we'll return to the imbecile-caliber "science" of The Day After Tomorrow and to my fear that, by presenting global warming in a laughably unrealistic way, the movie will only succeed in making audiences think that climate change is a big joke, when in fact the real-science case for greenhouse-gas reform gets stronger all the time.

Let's first pause to note that Al Gore and appear to be planning a promotional event in conjunction with the movie's release. Once Gore was a serious thinker on environmental issues, and diligently sought out top-notch scientific advice; say what you will about his 1992 Earth in the Balance--it's an earnest, conscientious work by someone concerned with getting the details straight. Now Gore appears ready to affiliate his reputation with a cheapo third-rate disaster movie that makes Fantastic Voyage seem like a peer-reviewed technical paper. It's easy to see why wants the reflection of the new movie's limelight; wild exaggeration is a good fundraising tool. But if Gore associates himself with this mindless flick, he will have completed his descent from serious thinker and national leader to's sock puppet. Why would Al Gore do this to himself?

Back to the science. Could Antarctic ice melt overnight? Studies suggest that past melting cycles of large ice sheets required millennia. So far global temperatures have increased one degree Fahrenheit in the last century--a reason to take greenhouse effect theory seriously, but nothing remotely close to what might be required for a historically unprecedented super-fast melting. In the last decade, the surface of the enormous Larsen ice shelf lost about one foot to melting, another reason to take greenhouse theory seriously, but an amount that liquefied a minute fraction of the ice shelf's mass. Even if global air temperatures somehow shot up by dozens of degrees Fahrenheit, which no global-warming scenario predicts--the worst-case warming forecast is about 10 degrees, plenty bad enough on its own--ice caps would require at least years to liquefy. Meanwhile the meltwater tidal wave that hits New York City is depicted as hundreds of feet high. A 2002 National Academy of Sciences study of possible "abrupt" climate change estimated that complete melting of austral ice would raise sea levels from 16 feet to 30 feet, not hundreds of feet. Sixteen feet would be plenty bad enough.

However paradoxical it may sound, there is a chance global warming could lead to lower temperatures in parts of the world, mainly Europe. Bear in mind that most of Europe lies to the north of Maine, yet is more temperate owing to prevailing ocean currents that carry warm equatorial water north toward the Old World nations. If prevailing ocean currents changed, temperatures in Europe might decline even as the world overall grew warmer; this is a genuine concern. That recent science suggests Europe might be hardest-hit in the short term by climate change is a reason European Union governments pressed hard for the Kyoto greenhouse-gas treaty while the Clinton administration refused to submit the agreement to the Senate and the George W. Bush administration abrogated it entirely.

But though cooling of the European climate is a troubling possible impact of artificial global warming, such change would almost certainly be gradual. Wallace Broecker of Columbia University, the world's preeminent authority on ocean currents, who first proposed that the dagger of abrupt climate change would be pointed at Europe, recently noted "there is no reason to believe that the impacts could occur in a mere decade ... the time required for this to happen is more likely a century." Atlantic Ocean currents, Broecker's research has found, changed dramatically about 12,700 years ago and again about 8,200 years ago, probably because large amounts of fresh water melting from the retreating Canadian ice sheet altered salinity patterns in the seas. Broecker fears something similar could be caused by artificial global warming, and thus supports greenhouse-gas restrictions--but adds that "exaggerated scenarios serve only to intensify the existing polarization" on greenhouse reform. The real science is plenty worrisome enough.

Next, while artificial global warming might cause cooler climates in some northern latitudes, there appears little chance global warming would trigger an ice age. Regrettably, the notion that global warming might provoke snap global glaciation may trace to this 1998 article in The Atlantic Monthly. The piece declared that disruption of ocean currents may usher in an ultra-fast ice age, causing "a catastrophe that could threaten the survival of civilization." Written by a man identified as "a theoretical neurophysiologist at the University of Washington at Seattle," the Atlantic's cover story essentially took the worst-case analyses of ocean-circulation outcomes, multiplied them together, discounted natural forces that resist climate flip-flops, and arrived at the warning that ice-age climate might resume "within a decade." Previous ice ages are believed to have taken from centuries to millennia to form large ice sheets. Atlantic Monthly articles are almost always of exceptionally high quality. But, well, nobody's perfect. Did producers of The Day After Tomorrow draw their conclusions about climate science from the writing of a theoretical neurophysiologist?

This recent paper in Science, the world's leading technical publication, summarizes what science knows about the Atlantic Meridian Overturning--a fancy name for the currents that carry warm water northward--and concludes that "in light of the paleoclimate record and our understanding of the contemporary climate system, it is safe to say that global warming will not lead to the onset of a new ice age." Europe might be harmed by the ocean-current consequences of artificial global warming, the researchers also speculate. This recent paper in Science presents the evidence that an aspect of ocean circulation called the subpolar gyre began to weaken in the 1990s, perhaps owing to the gradual warming that is indisputably in progress. These kinds of findings are legitimate science, and where the legitimate worries lie.

The Day After Tomorrow veers into total science illiteracy in its depiction of the instant freezing of New York City. Seawater sloshing over Manhattan solidifies in little more than moments, leaving the island's skyscrapers encased in hundreds of feet of ice; people and vehicles are blast-frozen into place. This is beyond laughable. Suppose all transit of warm weather northward via ocean currents ceased, a much worse outcome than any global warming model projects: Even if this happened, air temperatures in New York City would take perhaps months to decline, and the decline would be incremental. Blast-freezing city-sized volumes of seawater--assuming this is physically possible at all--might require air temperatures of absolute zero or something close to it. The lowest temperature ever recorded on Earth, minus 129 degrees Fahrenheit, happened in Antarctica, which is colder than the Arctic. Even air at minus 129 degrees might be insufficient to blast-freeze a tsunami the size of Manhattan, especially bearing in mind that the liquid in question is freeze-resistant seawater. And even if there were some strange wind that blew frigid air from the South Pole all the way to Manhattan, such air would have to cross the equator, warming in the process. In The Day After Tomorrow, Manhattan is suddenly hit by gusting winds at hundreds of degrees below zero--where does this super-cold air come from? (There is very cold air high in the Arctic atmosphere, but no global-warming models envision creation of a new natural mechanism that pushes such air downward in large masses to ground level, while redirecting it thousands of miles.) If the northward flow of warm equatorial water stopped, this would not create northern super-cold, but rather gradually declining boreal temperatures.

When The Day After Tomorrow crash-lands in theaters, some commentators are sure to say that the Bush administration will dread the movie because it will raise global-warming consciousness. To paraphrase myself from a decade ago, my reaction is the opposite. By trivializing the greenhouse effect into a subject as ludicrous as the premise of a scientifically illiterate disaster movie, The Day After Tomorrow may serve mainly to convince audiences the prospect of global warming is just another Hollywood gimmick.

3. TDAT and's Sock-Puppet Al Gore

The political action group dubs The Day After Tomorrow "the movie the White House doesn't want you to see." But former Vice President Al Gore does. He told reporters during a teleconference he hopes the disaster flick's Memorial Day release provides "a rare opportunity to have a national conversation about what truly should be seen as a global climate emergency."
Activist groups such as, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Energy Future Coalition are wasting no time jumping on the movie's coattails. Only a few blocks from the movie's May 24 premiere at New York's Natural History Museum, will be hosting a "Town Hall" meeting with Al Gore, Robert Kennedy Jr, and a panel of scientists scheduled to appear. The organization's website will encourage readers to see the film and send e-mails to the Bush administration regarding its environmental policies.

The organization also intends to recruit volunteers to hand out fliers at movie theaters when the film is released May 28. The fliers will read: "Could this really happen? Why we can't wait until the day after tomorrow."

Peter Schurman, executive director of, says he is not surprised by the studio wanting to keep the film at a distance from the organization's activities. "It doesn't surprise me -- it's a business venture for them," Schurman said. "They are about getting people to fill seats; we are about raising a public debate."

Gore Warns of 'Climate Emergency' While Promoting Disaster Film
By Marc Morano Senior Staff Writer
May 12, 2004

( - Former Vice President Al Gore warned of a "climate emergency" on Tuesday as he joined forces with political activists from to promote a Hollywood disaster film that shows global warming creating an ice age and causing massive destruction.

The Day After Tomorrow , a 20th Century Fox production set for release on Memorial Day, stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Dennis Quaid. The $125-million movie will offer "a rare opportunity to have a national conversation about what truly should be seen as a global climate emergency," Gore told reporters.

"I hope this movie will provide many opportunities for in-depth conversations about what this issue is really all about," Gore added. Others participating in Tuesday's teleconference are also planning to use the timing of the film's release to attack the Bush administration's environmental policies.

Roland Emmerich directed The Day After Tomorrow. His disaster/adventure film portfolio also includes Godzilla and Independence Day .

Emmerich's latest offering depicts global climate change wreaking havoc on the Earth by causing a rapid ice age in much of the world. Los Angeles is slammed by massive tornados, New York City receives depths of snow nearly as high as skyscrapers, New Delhi, India, is also consumed by snowstorms and Tokyo is pounded by giant hailstorms.

Gore was joined at the press conference by Peter Schurman, executive director of the liberal advocacy group, and Dan Schrag, a professor of paleoclimatology at Harvard University. According to Schurman, The Day After Tomorrow is the "movie President Bush does not want you to see."

But it is Gore's promotion of the film that has prompted critics from both sides of the climate-change debate to ridicule his efforts.

Gregg Easterbrook, a senior editor at New Republic Online and one who believes that human-caused climate change is real, said Gore is doing a disservice to the environmental cause by affiliating himself with a Hollywood disaster film.

"Once Gore was a serious thinker on environmental issues and diligently sought out top-notch advice ... Now Gore appears ready to affiliate his reputation with a cheapo, third-rate disaster movie that makes Fantastic Voyage seem like a peer-reviewed technical paper," Easterbrook wrote.

Easterbrook assailed the movie's "imbecile-caliber" science: "By presenting global warming in a laughably unrealistic way, the movie will only succeed in making audiences think that climate change is a big joke, when in fact the real science case for greenhouse-gas reform gets stronger all the time."

Easterbrook fears the greenhouse effect will be trivialized through its connection to a disaster movie, which he believes is "scientifically illiterate." And ultimately, The Day After Tomorrow may convince audiences that the global warming threat is just another Hollywood gimmick, Easterbrook stated.

Gore called a 'sock puppet' for

Easterbrook also criticized Gore for his close affiliation with, the liberal group propped up by huge donations from billionaire financier George Soros for the express purpose of defeating President Bush.

"It's easy to see why wants the reflection of the new movie's limelight; wild exaggeration is a good fundraising tool. But if Gore associates himself with this mindless film, he will have completed his descent from serious thinker and national leader to's sock puppet," Easterbrook wrote.

"Why would Al Gore do this to himself?" he asked.

David Rothbard, president of the Washington, D.C.-based free market group, Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT), rejects what he sees as climate change alarmism.

"Since Al Gore had such success peddling science fiction as reality in his book Earth in the Balance, it's no surprise he's all ozoned-up about a global-warming movie with similar fantasy-as-fact foundations," Rothbard told

"Gore talks about a "global climate emergency," but with scientific evidence mounting against any catastrophic man-made warming, the only global emergency would be if this movie resuscitates an otherwise dying Kyoto (global warming) treaty," Rothbard said.

"With an epic doomsday movie like The Day After Tomorrow , green leaders have finally found the proper genre in which to market their `end-is-near' alarmism'\," he added.

'Fictional' Bush environmental policy

Gore acknowledged that the movie contained fictional elements, but he charged that the Bush administration's climate policy was even more fictional.

Gore explained that the movie's timeline of events is fictional; but he said it's "accurate in giving the impression that the consequences can be extremely serious. "This is the kind of dishonest behavior that can lead to an unhealthy debate in our democracy not dissimilar from the kind of misleading impressions that were created in the run up to the Iraq war," he added.

Gore warned of future dire consequences for the planet if climate change issues are not addressed. [There will be] more vulnerability to tropical diseases like dengue fever and malaria in higher latitudes, rising sea levels, and areas threatened by storm surges that have not been in the past," Gore warned.

He called climate change "an emergency that seems to be unfolding in slow motion, but it actually is occurring very swiftly -- not as swiftly as the movie portrays, but swiftly in the context of human history," he added.

Gore said he believes people are becoming increasingly convinced of the real dangers associated with climate change. "I do think that more and more people are feeling it in their gut. They are listening to their parents and grandparents tell them the weather is very different now than when they were children," Gore said.

'Global warming isn't just a movie'

Green groups such as Environmental Defense, Rainforest Action Network, and Worldwatch Institute are also joining in the effort to promote climate educational activities, including the distribution of fliers at movies theaters on Memorial Day weekend. "Global warming isn't just a movie. It's your future," the environmental groups declare in the flier.

They also are urging support for the Kyoto Protocol and U.S. Senate legislation sponsored by Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona and Democratic Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut. Both measures would restrict industrial greenhouse gases that some scientists believe are causing climate warming.

Gore and will host a town hall meeting in New York City on May 24 featuring Al Franken and Robert Kennedy, Jr. The National Resources Defense Council is teaming up with the Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream company in a "Get the Scoop" campaign that will give free scoops of ice cream to people who sign a petition in support of the McCain-Lieberman climate change bill.

Climate change 'very likely' to happen

Dan Schrag, a professor of paleoclimatology at Harvard University, compared The Day After Tomorrow to other big-budget "earth science movies," such as Jurassic Park and The Core.

"But there is a very big difference, which is that although the effects of climate change -- and most importantly, the time scale of climate change -- are exaggerated in this movie,
unlike those other movies, this is very likely going to happen," Schrag said. "Climate change is real and it is going on," he added.

According to, the environmental groups have no affiliation with the movie. But Rothbard, of the free market group CFACT, believes the green movement will be disappointed by the movie's impact.

"While [environmentalists] may want people to view this movie like some kind of documentary on PBS or the Discovery Channel, hopefully it will be taken with the same seriousness as other upcoming summer flicks like Spider Man II or the new Harry Potter film," Rothbard said.

"Indeed, I expect many Americans, much to the environmentalists' chagrin, to be watching this movie at the drive-in with their SUV engines running and their trans-fatty buttered popcorn being washed down by a nice 32 ounce cola in a Styrofoam cup," he added.

See Related Articles:
Gore's Global Warming Speech Gets Icy Rebuke -- 01/15/2004
Environmentalists Blame East Coast Hurricane on 'Global Warming' -- 09/18/2003
'Alarmist' Global Warming Claims Unfounded Says Climatologist -- 07/14/2003
Environmentalist Says Blizzard Consistent with 'Global Warming' Trend -- 02/20/2003
Environmentalist's Warning of Coming Ice Age Labeled 'Bunk' -- 10/09/2002


4. TDAT and BBC: Climate film 'flawed but useful'
By Alex Kirby
BBC News Online environment correspondent

The blockbuster climate disaster movie The Day After Tomorrow contains badly flawed science and ignores the laws of physics, leading UK scientists believe. But many of them have welcomed the film as a dramatic and popular way to raise people's awareness of climate change.

Sir David King, the government's chief scientific adviser, said he hoped many ordinary Americans would see the film. And the former US Vice-President Al Gore said the risks the film portrayed were a threat to our common future.

Beyond the science
Speaking in London, Sir David described The Day After Tomorrow as "a spectacular action film" which portrayed the switching off of the Gulf Stream and the Northern Hemisphere's subsequent plunge into a new Ice Age.

Sir David said the present global atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration of 379 parts per million, the highest for at least 420,000 years, was "very significantly higher" than during previous warm periods.

But that did not mean the THC, which keeps north-western Europe about 5C warmer than it would be otherwise, would switch off at all, and certainly not as quickly as The Day After Tomorrow suggested.

The film "unrealistically concertinas into a few weeks a scenario which, if it did occur, would take decades or a century".

Sir David said: "The film brings events together into a highly unlikely or even impossible scenario. It's very difficult to explain the physics of it.
"But what's good is that while my colleagues and I have just spent half an hour presenting you with the scientific understanding of climate change, the movie gets the basic message across in a few sentences of dialogue. It's a beautiful piece of script-writing.

Ignoring the facts
I hope US audiences will see it. It's very important that we all take cognisance of what science is saying, and that includes American politicians." He said there had been 21,000 extra fatalities in Europe's heat wave in 2003 that had been attributable to climate change, but few had made the link. Sir David said: "There's a problem in dramatising these events, because even when they happen in the real world we don't seem to take much notice of them."

One of his colleagues was Dr Geoff Jenkins, head of climate prediction at the Met Office's Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research. He said: "It's a movie, and we shouldn't get too poo-faced about it. Hollywood's not going to make money out of a bunch of scientists discussing uncertainties." Dr Jenkins said scientists thought a collapse of the THC was a low-probability but high-impact event. But they did not know how low the probability was, and in principle it could happen.

Dr David Viner, of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, told BBC News Online: "The film got a lot of the detail wrong, and the direction of change as well - cooling of this sort is very unlikely with global warming. "But the fact that The Day After Tomorrow raises awareness about climate change must be a good thing."

SEPP Comment: So the science is junk, but let the public believe otherwise. When not talking to the BBC, a more truthful view: "The movie exaggerates how quickly climate change can happen. And higher carbon dioxide will not push us into another ice age."
Daniel Schrag, Harvard University oceanographer


5. TDAT and Nature: Gales Of Laughter: Shock, Horror Or Sci-Fi Comedy?
Nature, 12 May 2004

Disaster Movie Makes Waves: But could the climate crash 'the day after tomorrow'?
By Mark Peplow

A 50-metre high tsunami engulfs Manhattan. Helicopters plummet from the sky when their fuel freezes solid in the mother of all blizzards. Monster hailstones rain down on Tokyo.

These are all scenes from The Day After Tomorrow, a US$125 million eco-disaster film showing in cinemas worldwide from 28 May. The film is already causing a stir as some scientists question its premise, and environmental groups such as Greenpeace use the apocalyptic vision of climate change to promote their cause.

The plot is simple enough. The Atlantic Ocean is being diluted as Arctic ice melts, owing to global warming. This dilution turns off the vital ocean current, known as thermohaline circulation, that normally carries warm water from the equator deep into the northern hemisphere by means of the Gulf Stream.

So far, so modelled; the Hadley Centre in Exeter, part of the UK's Met Office, has run computer simulations to study the demise of this aquatic conveyor belt. Their model showed that without warm water from the Gulf Stream, Western Europe would be about 5 °C cooler after just a few decades. Many climatologists believe that a similar shut-down happened at the end of the last ice age, roughly 13,000 years ago, when meltwater from an enormous glacier poured into the north Atlantic.

As well as translating this scenario to the United States, The Day After Tomorrow takes this idea a few stages further. First, the ocean cools down by 13 °C as the thermohaline circulation ceases. This creates three enormous hurricanes that drag cold air down from the upper atmosphere. Anyone who ventures outside is instantly frozen solid by the chilly draught, which also disables the hapless helicopters. Within a week, the entire Northern Hemisphere is covered in ice.

Artistic license

While the movie's producers acknowledge that details in the film are exaggerated, they emphasise that human activity could trigger a sudden ice age. "We pushed the time period in which an ice age could occur for dramatic purposes," says producer Mark Gordon, "but the theory that global warming could cause an abrupt climate shift is gaining mainstream attention."

Few scientists would quibble with artistic licence, but many question the basic premise that global warming could trigger a sudden, cataclysmic climate change. "The evidence to date suggests that the big turn off is very unlikely. You would have to warm the Earth by many, many degrees to put enough fresh water into the Atlantic," says David Viner, a climatologist at the University of East Anglia in Norwich. Human activity will definitely produce a gradual global warming rather than sudden global cooling, he says, although he concedes that "localized extreme weather events such as golf ball-sized hailstones are definitely on the rise in our warming world." Abrupt global cooling is more likely to be caused by a volcanic eruption or meteorite impact that throws dust into the atmosphere, blocking the Sun's rays, he suggests.

"We are seeing some slowing of the thermohaline circulation, but my hunch is that we are not going to see a dramatic climate change because of it," agrees Julian Hunt, a climate model expert at University College London. Losing Arctic ice during the summer would just weaken the current rather than shutting it down altogether, he says, and nobody predicts that Arctic ice will be lost during the winter.

Hunt adds that although global warming may weaken ocean currents, it also tends to strengthen winds that push warm water into higher latitudes. This could counteract any cooling effects.

Hammer it home

The director and co-writer Roland Emmerich, who also made Independence Day, still wants his film to be taken seriously as a climate scenario. "My secret dream is that this film will move politicians to act," he told Spiegel Online earlier this month.

Not so secret, perhaps. In one scene, the head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reprimands the stubborn vice-president of the United States. "You did not want to know about the science when it could have made a difference," he chides. Emmerich clearly loves making the vice-president eat humble pie when he later thanks Mexico for taking in US refugees.

The film may in fact gain some political influence. Former vice-president Al Gore is planning an environmental rally to tie in with the film première, for example. "It will not be as sudden and dramatic as the Hollywood film, but the Earth's environment is currently sustaining severe and potentially irreparable damage," says Gore.

Gales of laughter

"I hope the film will help raise awareness of the human influence on climate change," despite its sometimes questionable science, says Viner.

"This film has certainly added a new dimension to the public engagement with this issue in a way that climate scientists could never do," says Ian Curtis, who develops methods for communicating climatology at Oxford University's Environmental Change Institute.

But Viner believes that the film's impact will ultimately depend on its quality. "Look at Waterworld: that was supposed to be about climate change. But it was crap, and everyone ignored it," he says.

At a preview screening yesterday, the audience's reaction to the hammier sections of the film's dialogue did not augur well. Their derisive laughter may scupper Emmerich's ambitions for political leverage.

© Nature News Service / Macmillan Magazines Ltd 2004


6. Ice Age Movie Is Realistic, Says Britain's Chief Scientist

Once more, from (where else?) the Guardian comes some valuable insight into the hobgoblins of little minds: We also reprint an article from The Independent:

"Among the film's unexpected fans after a sneak preview are the government's chief scientific adviser, Sir David King, and Geoff Jenkins, head of the Hadley Centre for Climate Change, who both regard the film's stunning special effects as good fun and welcome the blockbuster as raising public awareness and debate about a vital issue.

Sir David, who recently stirred political debate on both sides of the Atlantic by saying that global warming was a greater threat than terrorism, said the beginning of the film was particularly realistic - both scientifically and politically.

The political content of the film, in which the US administration is seen to rubbish scientific theories of global warming and paying a heavy price for it, is a double surprise because the film comes from Rupert Murdoch's 20th Century Fox studio, and has been billed by environmental groups as a strongly anti-Bush movie in an election year. The realism Sir David praised was where the film's hero, Jack Hall, a climate scientist played by Dennis Quaid, seeks to convince a high-powered but sceptical audience including the US vice president, that the Gulf Stream is weakening because of climate change.

The Cheney look-alike rejects the idea of global warming being a threat, and says the US economy is more fragile than the climate.

The Independent (UK), 13 May 2004
By Steve Connor, Science Editor

The Hollywood blockbuster that depicts a sudden ice age brought about by climate change is "remarkably realistic" in parts, says the Government's chief scientist.

Sir David King said The Day After Tomorrow, which he watched yesterday at a private screening in London, will increase the public's awareness of a threat he once described as worse than terrorism. But he added that it plays fast and loose with some of the science of climate change. "I welcome the movie in the sense that it raises the profile of a critically important public debate about global warming and the need to persuade governments to take action now," Sir David said.

The catastrophic climatic events of the film's storyline are triggered by the Gulf Stream - the warm current that flows into the North Atlantic - coming to a sudden halt. This brings a dramatic and instant ice age to North America and Europe.

Sir David said the film, by the Independence Day director, Roland Emmerich, accurately portrayed the difficult real-life discussions that have taken place between climate scientists and politicians, particularly those close to the Bush administration, which is sceptical about global warming.

"The general interaction between the scientific community and political community is interestingly well portrayed," he said. "The opening scenes setting up the key scientific factors and introducing the viewer to the scientists and the scientific-political interface are in my view remarkably realistic. I think palaeoclimatologists can closely identify with the discussion. The sceptical reactions that the scientists received are also rather well depicted."

Climate scientists know that a warmer planet could slow down the Gulf Stream, but none of the computer models predicts its complete halt, and all suggest that climate change will result in a warmer rather than colder world, Sir David said.

"The current consensus is that climate change may result in a weakening of the Gulf Stream but not a complete halt," he said. "The cooling caused by a weakened Gulf Stream would not actually counteract the general warming caused by increased greenhouse gases. Northern Europe is more likely to get warmer than colder."

Some critics of the film have suggested that its exaggerated storyline - showing tornadoes ripping through Los Angeles and snowstorms lashing Delhi - could dangerously mislead the public and cause them to become complacent about the real but not so dramatic dangers of climate change. "Will the public become inured? I think we're quite a long way from that. We're still in a situation where we need to engage the public more fully in the global warming debate," Sir David said.

"I think we're beginning to do that quite successfully in the UK but if we look globally there is a big job yet to be done so I do therefore welcome this movie despite the problems," he said.

Geoff Jenkins, a senior climate researcher at the Met Office's Hadley Centre, said the Gulf Stream was switched off completely about 11,000 years ago when freshwater from melting ice sheets flooded into the Atlantic. "Those ice sheets don't exist in Canada any more and so that same sort of thing could not happen again," he said. "Nobody thinks the world is going to cool in terms of precipitating a new ice age and the sort of thing that's in the movie. At the very worst we will see the world warming -- apart from a bit of the North Atlantic."

Sir David accepted the film's limitations: "The film does unrealistically concertina into a few weeks a scenario that if it did occur would take decades or even a century." But he added: "It's important that we all take cognisance of what scientists are saying about global warming and by that I mean all political players around the world and this clearly must include the American administration."


7. But British Climate Scientists Disagree. Climate Of Fear and Fiction?

"The... scenario the film portrays is scientifically ludicrous - not only in the speed of response but also by linking sea-level rise to extreme cold."
Professor Phil Jones, climatologist at the Climate Research Unit

"The Day After Tomorrow takes its starting point from science, but ends up telling a dramatic and entertaining science-fiction story."
Professor Mike Hulme, scientist at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change

8. And finally: More Scientific Evidence Against TDAT

The science doesn't even support substantial changes in the North Atlantic Conveyor Belt. But this is something that the modelers (Stocker, Rahmstorff, Mahlman, etc, etc) either don't understand or are trying hard to ignore.

The evidence for a fairly constant, unvarying Conveyor Belt is presented by Maureen Raymo (Boston Univ) et al in Paleoceanography 19, 10.1029/2003PA000921 (2004).

She reports no significant changes in the relevant carbon-isotope profiles from seven North Atlantic sites covering 27 glacial cycles over a span of nearly 2 million years.


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