Global warming is happening today. ExxonMobil hopes you don't notice.
The film has run into entirely justifiable criticism for
exaggerating the speed at which cataclysmic changes might happen to
the world's climate. The film-makers themselves acknowledge that
they compressed changes that are foreseen occurring over decades
into a scientifically implausible quick-freeze that descends over
North America in hours, a couple of hundred-year storms that
descend simultaneously, multiple tornadoes hitting Los Angeles, and
a tidal wave that engulfs New York City. No climate scientist would
say this many extreme events in this close a time period is a
likely scenario, or that some of these events, in particular a
Northern Hemisphere freeze, could ever happen at all.
But most agree an underlying premise: extreme weather events are
already on the rise, and global warming can be expected to make
them more frequent and more severe.
Real deaths already
than 14,000 people died in France last year in an extraordinary
heatwave. The World Health Organisation estimates that 160,000
people a year are dying of extreme weather and disease events
caused by global warming, and that this number could double by
Thomas Loster, of Munich Re, one of the world's largest
reinsurance companies, told the
Guardian in December "We used to talk in terms of floods and
heatwaves being one in 100 year events, but in the south of France
this year we have had a one in 100 year heatwave, and last month
one in 100 year floods - all in the same year. This is climate
change happening now and a big headache for the insurance
Bill McKibben, who wrote the first layman's book about global
warming, The End of Nature, has been clamoring to get
popular attention to the issue since the 1980s. We all know that
politicians aren't going to take a step until something pushes
them, and McKibben laments the absence of a widespread popular
understanding of just what we're facing: the extinction of up to a
quarter of the world's known species within the lifetime of
children being born today; whole populations fleeing floods in
low-lying areas; malaria in North America; killer storms;
disruptive changes in agricultural patterns and deep reductions in
the Earth's overall food production capacity.
Fear is justified
no real remedial action happening to address this, McKibben states
in an issue of Granta entitled
"This Overheating World," because "hardly anyone [...] has fear in
their guts." And there's the problem: until the public knows enough
to care, politicians are going to follow their self interest.
And these days, that self-interest is dictated by campaign
funding and large lobbying efforts by corporate interests like the
world's largest oil company, ExxonMobil, and its cronies from the
school of "Problem? What problem?"
It's interesting to note who's angry about this film.
In a scathing review, Patrick Michaels of the Cato Institute
calls the fact that the globe is today warmer than in the 19th
Century a "benign truth" and dismisses not only the film, but the
science which indicates extreme weather is on the increase. And who
funds the Cato Institute to pay Mr. Michaels? ExxonMobil for one,
the world's top environmental enemy.
Robert Balling, at Tech Central Station, pooh-poohs the film as
well, and in the process makes the case against ratifying Kyoto:
"the climate impact would be undetectable for many decades to come.
Of course, the undesirable economic impacts of the Protocol would
be easily detected immediately." So much for stewardship of our
planet for future generations. Who funds Tech Central? Why, here's
a statement from their own website:
"Tech Central Station is supported by sponsoring corporations
that share our faith in technology... and so we are grateful to
AT&T, ExxonMobil, General Motors Corporation, Intel,
Murray of the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) dislikes the
film almost as much as he dislikes Al Gore. He claims that the
United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is guilty
of bad science when it warns about global warming, and trots out a
panel of four "experts" sponsored by the "Cooler Heads Coalition"
to prove it. He neglects to mention that the Cooler Heads Coalition
was started by his own institute, or that CEI is funded by... no,
wait ... surely this is coincidence? ExxonMobil again!
Truth and fiction
It's one thing to dismiss the film as fiction. It's quite
another to deny the fact of the problem it's trying to
Fiction is a legitimate part of civilization's radar, and has a
valid place in shaping democratic debate. When the film "China
Syndrome" debuted in 1979, the title itself was an exaggeration
based on the premise that a nuclear meltdown would burn through the
Earth's crust. Yet the original script was written by an engineer
who was all too aware of the real dangers of nuclear power, and who
simply amplified on actual problems that had already occurred to
make a point. Eleven days after the movie premiered, the accident
at Three Mile Island proved the movie's baseline premise to be
well-founded: the nuclear industry's claim that redundant
safeguards guaranteed nuclear power to be entirely safe was hubris.
No new nuclear power plant has been approved in the US since.
And what about "Dr. Strangelove"? The "doomsday machine" was
utter fiction, but it spoke truth about the insanity of "Mutually
Assured Destruction." And while we can only hope that no real-life
militarist has ever lived up to Kubrick's fantastic General Jack D.
Ripper, with his paranoia about communist infiltration of America's
"precious bodily fluids," Ronald Reagan's flip open-mike gaff that
the Soviet Union had been outlawed and 'the bombing begins in five
minutes' wouldn't have been out of place in Kubrick's absurdist
is shaped by stories. Stories use imagined events to raise
difficult questions about real issues. The Day After Tomorrow is a
movie. It uses fiction to highlight a fact: global warming needs
our attention. Now.
It's too late to stop it; people are already dying, and the
world is already permanently altered. But it's not too late to save
future generations from the real horrors and real disasters which
we bring closer with every day of inaction.
The challenge is to end our world's dependence on fossil fuels
within four decades. That's the message that ExxonMobil doesn't
want you to hear, and the agenda they pay big money to ensure
George Bush doesn't act upon.
The day after tomorrow will be too late. The time for action is
Don't buy Exxon.
Don't buy Esso.
Visit our parody website, The Day Is Today, and
meet the directors of the real disaster: ExxonMobil, along with
Producer George W. Bush.
Donate your computer's idle time to the climate modelling
experiment at climateprediction.net.
Take the GreenRibbon