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Climate Disaster Movie Warms Up Controversy

A new disaster movie from the maker of “Independence Day” won’t hit theaters until May 28, but the buzz about its relevance to current environmental issues is already here.

“The Day After Tomorrow,” an effects-laden picture budgeted at well over $100 million, depicts an abrupt climate change that wreaks havoc on Earth: snow in <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />New Delhi, tornadoes in Los Angeles, a tidal wave in Manhattan.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />
 
The disaster movie is putting the issue of global warming back into headlines, even as the environment becomes another flash point in the upcoming presidential election.
 
A Reuters article said Al Gore and Harvard scientist Dan Schrag will hold a press conference this week with advocacy group MoveOn.org to highlight an upcoming global warming campaign that coincides with the Memorial Day release of the film.
 
“Tomorrow” will be one of the first blockbusters to kick off the summer movie-going season, which this year happens to lead into the presidential election.
 
“This summer might just see an alliance of commerce, populist entertainment and feel-good concern combine to weaken President George Bush and hand votes to his expected Democrat rival John Kerry,” read a March 13 article in The Guardian.
 
The British publication described the movie as “the eco-armageddon story to beat all others.”
 
The Bush administration has come under fire before for its handling of global warming issues, particularly the editing of a global warming report in June 2003 that softened the impact of rising temperatures around the globe.
 
And last month, NASA instructed its scientists not to field questions about the new movie. The New York Times reported the space agency was alarmed that the movie might spark the ire of a public sour over the White House’s seeming inaction on environmental care.
 
The issue of global warming is apparently so loaded that even the Weather Channel uses delicate language in its press releases.
 
“Over the past few years, The Weather Channel has evolved its position on global warming in an effort to objectively represent what the state of the science is,” Dr. Heidi Cullen, climate expert for the Weather Channel, said in a press release about the issue and the movie. “In regard to the role that people play in influencing our climate, we recognize and respect that there will be those who disagree with us, but our position is consistent with that of the majority of climate scientists.”
 
Their position: “Global warming is real” and “impacts can already be seen.”
 
The Weather Channel is planning an “Extreme Weather Week” of programming May 23-29, as well as a half-hour show, “Extreme Weather Theories,” on May 27, both of which are meant to coincide with the movie’s opening.
 
The Weather Channel “served as the highlighted weather authority for this movie,” according to the release. In the movie, the cable channel is one of the last news sources to air amid the chaos.
 
The Natural Resources Defense Council, a nonprofit organization protecting public health and the environment, has also weighed in on the movie, which stars Dennis Quaid.
 
“The over-the-top storyline far exceeds real-life climate scientists’ most extreme projections,” according to a press release from the organization. “But like any good fable, the movie taps a more basic truth: Global warming is happening today. While research on the problem is continuing, responsible experts say we need to act now to start fixing the problem.”
 
The NRDC, founded in 1970, makes the reduction of heat-trapping pollution one of its goals.
 
As for the film itself, 20th Century Fox is using interest in the environment as a selling point for the movie—and vice-versa.
 
The film’s Web site features a “Weather Gone Wild” section with information about current and future weather patterns. It also features information about the movie shoot, which eventually became a “CarbonNeutral” production.
 
“At some point during the filming we looked around at all the lights, generators and trucks and we realized, the very process of making this picture is contributing to the problem of global warming,” said director Roland Emmerich on the Web site.
 
“We couldn’t avoid putting CO2 into the atmosphere during the shoot but we discovered that we could do something to make up for it,” he said. That something was the CarbonNeutral approach, a mix of energy conservation and tree planting overseen by Future Forests.
 
Future Forests even set up a special division of its Web site to tie in with the movie.
 
“Here you can do something about your own personal contribution to global warming,” the site says, “and help keep the film firmly in the world of fiction.”
 
Cliff Vaughn is culture editor for EthicsDaily.com.

The movie’s official Web site is here.
 
The movie’s trailer is here.
 
Also read:
 
Environmental Agenda Making Progress Despite Spin and Distortion by Jim Ball