The scientific community agrees that global temperatures are rising due to the burning of fossil fuels which are damaging the protective atmospheric Ozone layer by changing its composition. Human pollution is changing the climate of our earth and has increased global warming in the past half-century. Global warming is further evidenced by the well-documented melting of glaciers along with the thermal expansion of the oceans, which have contributed to an increase in sea level over the past century of about 15 cm. (Trenberth, 1997). The effects of climate change on the world’s oceans, and how this would have a reciprocal action on the rest of our climate, is the subject of several films, such as “The Day After Tomorrow” and articles, such as “Climate Crisis” and “Global Warming”.
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In the beginning of the film “The Day After Tomorrow” (Twentieth Century Fox, 2004), the main character, Professor Jack Hall (Dennis Quaid), is trying to warn the world of the drastic consequences of a changing climate being caused by the polluting effects of human activity. According to his theory, the ice caps are melting as a result of global warming caused by human pollution. These melting ice caps will cause a cooling of the ocean’s temperatures and interrupt the flow of the Gulf Stream, which is what keeps Europe warm enough for habitation which will plunge the Earth into a new ice age. Just after Dr Hall explains his theory, it begins to happen. Buoys in Scotland record a sudden drop in ocean temperatures triggering massive superstorms everywhere. These include multiple severe tornadoes in L.A. that demolish the city, hurricanes in England that freeze everything in an instant and the flooding of New York by massive waves triggered by the storms in England, which will pass over the city sometime later to instantly freeze New York as well. Writer/director Roland Emmerich emphasizes the reversed nature of the weather in this storm movement.
The ideas presented in the movie are supported by a good deal of research, although much of it remains controversial. According to the Pew Research Center, the idea of abrupt climate change is something that scientists have become concerned about recently, but that if abrupt climate change is possible, it is expected to take place over a period of decades rather than overnight as the film depicts. The article provides a great deal of information about the differences between global warming and climate change but makes a clear explanation of how they are connected, why the Gulf Stream is important and whether a complete shut-down of the system is likely.
Another article that supports the possibility of abrupt climate change, and perhaps one that is more distressing, is a review of a recent UN council in which the subject was discussed. In a story published in the Daily Times (2008), the report given to a UN conference on global warming is summarized, indicating that scientists from all over the world are warning that the possibility for abrupt changes in climate is very possible. They have already determined that the climate has changed by 1 degree Fahrenheit in the past century, which is enough to seriously endanger delicate ecosystems. It is expected to change another 2-10 degrees in the next 100 years unless massive steps are taken to reduce greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere.
While it seems clear that the type of overnight changes that were depicted in the film are unlikely, it also seems clear that the world I share with my grandchildren may be tremendously different from the world I grew up in. There seems to be a great deal of debate as to whether humans have caused global warming, but climate change is happening whether we agree on this issue or not. Since we know what causes global warming, too many chemicals in the atmosphere that trap in the sun’s heat, and we know that global warming will relatively quickly destroy the climate that we are adapted to, we should do what we can to reduce these chemicals by reducing our own contribution to the levels.
- Daily Times staff. “UN Conference on Global Warming: Doomsday Scenario Predicted if Climate Change not Tackled.” Daily Times. (2008). Web.
- “The Day After Tomorrow.” Dir. Roland Emmerich. Perf. Dennis Quaid, Jake Gyllenhaal, Emmy Rossum, Dash Mihok & Jay O. Sanders. Twentieth Century-Fox Film Company, 2004.
- Pew Center. “The Day After Tomorrow: Could it Really Happen?” Pew Center for Global Climate Change. (2004).