Monday, May 17, 2004

Excellent article on movies and politics. And global warming

The Day After Tomorrow: Apocalypse Soon?

Here's the plot. In the middle of a Northern Hemisphere summer, the temperature of the high-latitude Atlantic and Pacific suddenly drops 15 degrees. This is caused by the shutdown of the Gulf Stream, which keeps Europe from being the icebox it should be at its northerly latitude.

Since the Gulf Stream is no longer transporting warm water to Europe, the tropics get hotter and hotter, and the poles colder and colder. In a series of massive thunderstorms, the atmosphere flips over, and increasingly cold stratospheric air is drawn down to the earth's surface, creating a low-pressure system that produces hundreds of feet of snow. Temperatures in Canada drop 100 degrees in an hour. Just about everyone north of Washington, D.C., dies. The following summer, the ice melts and a continental flood ensues.

Hurricanes hit Belfast. San Francisco Bay freezes. Hailstones the size of canned hams bomb Tokyo. According to the movie's Web page, Madras, India, becomes the "New Venice of the South."

The movie makers maintain that much of this has already started. Disaster is heading our way pronto. The picture's Web site reminds us, for instance, that just last May, we had a record number of tornados for one month, and that more than half of the deaths that occur in hurricanes now are due to inland floods rather than coastal damage.

Read the whole article, and do not miss the conclusion

...environmental fear creates political pressure, and plenty will be exerted on a handful of senators to switch their votes on S 139. After Bush vetoes a bill that passes a panicked House, Kerry exploits climate hysteria and knocks down one more state (maybe increasingly Democratic Arizona, burning?) than Gore did. Make that President-elect Kerry.

Can't happen? Well, in 1979, Jane Fonda starred in "The China Syndrome," another scientific impossibility, about a contained nuclear reactor meltdown, that coincided with a national panic over the accident at Three Mile Island (which killed no one and released only tiny amounts of radiation). Since then, we haven't approved building another nuclear plant -- the only major power source that doesn't emit gases capable of warming the planet.


But is this article a pre-emptive republican attack? After all, the author is pretty sceptical of the global warming hypothesis, at least in the more dramatic implications of it. Presumably other scientists might consider the situation more dire, and more prone to dramatic change. Most of the more amusing points the movie makes that are ripped by the article are fairly minor. Does it really matter which country will get flooded and in which way. One can plausibly argue that locations chosen for the more spectacular devastation are selected for their political and geographic appeal, not necessarily their position in the path of future F5 hurricanes. Still, an interesting article to read. Let's not forget, "The Day After Tomorrow" is brought to us by "producers of Independence Day" - which was hardly based on reality...


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