Feature by: Jack Foley
SO COULD it really happen? Could the world be plunged into an
ice age at anything like the rate at which events unfold in The
Day After Tomorrow?
The obvious answer is no. Global warming aside, it
has been widely stated that the chances of such a cataclysmic
set of events unfolding in real-life are damn-near impossible.
Yet that hasnt quelled the debate surrounding Roland Emmerichs
spectacular epic, which has got several US politicians extremely
hot under the collar, and provoked plenty of analysis among environmentalists.
As a cautionary tale, the film may well serve to have audiences
asking, what can we do to help, given that the events
are based on reality.
We know the Earth is warming up, that the ice caps are melting,
and that the O-Zone layer is precariously balanced - so what is
there to stop the rest from happening?
The film itself depicts a time when the melting polar ice caps
have poured too much fresh water into the oceans, thereby disrupting
the currents that stabilise our climate system. As a result, global
warming pushes the planet over the edge and into a new Ice Age.
Along the way, viewers get to see hail the size of grapefruit
pounding Tokyo and tornadoes wreaking havoc in LA, not to mention
the tidal wave which decimates most of New York.
Yet Emmerich believes that much of the films fun lies in
its closeness to reality.
"At the core of any disaster movie there always
has to be something factual, something real for the audience to
grab onto," he says.
"What we already know about global warming and climate change
has provided us with a great fact base for the movie, and that
directly affects the believability of the characters and the world
that we have created for them."
Indeed, during the course of making the film, a series of extreme
weather events, world-wide, contributed to the growing body of
evidence that climate change is already underway.
In July 2002, for example, a deadly hailstorm struck central
China, during which the hail stones, which were the size of eggs,
killed 25 people.
The following month, parts of Europe were ravaged by what became
known there as the floods of the century. At least
108 people were killed and tens of thousands had to be evacuated.
In November, a major outbreak of severe weather and tornadoes
occurred in the US, and a total of 75 tornadoes touched down in
one day, killing 36 people and causing damage in 13 states.
Additionally, the production suffered through four months of
what would become one of Montreals coldest winters on record,
with daytime temperatures topping out at minus 25oC on numerous
Producer, Mark Gordon, states: "The theory that global warming
could cause an abrupt climate shift is gaining mainstream attention.
While nobody knows what the exact result will be of mankinds
addition of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, some experts have
referred to it as the largest uncontrolled scientific experiment
With this in mind, several leading climatists have been asked
for their opinions concerning the likelihood of such a rapid deterioration.
And while they have been quick to praise the movie for the way
in which it has brought the issue into the public eye, much of
the films science has been described as flawed.
In an article on BBC Online, Sir David King, the government's
chief scientific adviser, agreed that while the scientific consensus
was that climate change might lead to a weakening of the thermohaline
circulation (THC), or the phenomenon that drives the Gulf Stream,
it was not expected to cause its complete halting, as in the film.
He added that the film unrealistically concertinas, into
a few weeks, a scenario which, if it did occur, would take decades
or a century.
But he did praise the makers for getting the basic message, about
climate change, across in a few sentences of dialogue, which he
referred to as a beautiful piece of script-writing,
observing that there had been 21,000 extra fatalities, in Europe's
heat-wave, in 2003, that had been attributable to climate change.
It is comments such as these which have been seized upon by environmental
campaigners, in America, as a means to slam further the not-so-green
policies of the Bush administration - which, ironically, have
landed the film at the centre of a political storm.
According to a recent report in the New York Times, industry
groups, in Washington, are furiously lobbying Capitol Hill to
ensure the film does not help passage of a bill, limiting carbon-dioxide
emissions, which many scientists say contribute to global warming.
While former US Vice-President, Al Gore, compared the exaggeration
of the film's premise to the approach of the Bush administration
to global warming.
"There are two sets of fiction to deal with," he said,
in a conference organised by moveon.org. "One is the movie,
the other is the Bush administration's presentation of global
He went on to accuse the White House of trying to convince
people there's no real problem, no degree of certainty from scientists
about the issue.
But at a time when Hollywood, as a whole, is seeking to back-track
on some of the more controversial film-makers opinions concerning
all aspects of the beleaguered Bush administration, a spokesman
for the distributor, Twentieth Century Fox, is quoted as saying:
"Clearly, the movie is entertainment, but all of this activity
creates additional interest, making it more topical. It's been
And the companys US marketing executives are also believed
to be billing the film more as an action-adventure, roller-coaster-style
experience, rather than anything which seriously questions political
One thing is for certain, however, the lively debate surrounding
the film - be it political or environmental - should serve to
guarantee that profits snowball at the box office.