At the time of this writing (two months before "The Day After Tomorrow" opens),
it seems likely the movie will lead to a new round of global warming hysteria. Our technological
ability to create realistic computer-generated scenes of environmental catastrophe lends a certain
realism to a movie. While "The Day After Tomorrow" will raise awareness of the global warming issue,
it is unlikely to lead to the public having balanced and informed views on the subject.
While global warming is indeed real, it's magnitude is very uncertain. Some part of the 1 deg. F warming
over the last century is likely the result of mankind's production of
greenhouse gases from fossil
fuel use, while some is the result of coming out of the "Little Ice Age" of centuries past. The amount of
future warming is also very uncertain. Climate models currently do not contain certain
feedbacks that could limit
the amount of warming in the next century, and so these models could be overestimating the amount of
future warming. It is also important to remember that climate is always changing, and humans have always
had to adapt to climate change.
What can we do about the problem? It is widely acknowledged that the "Kyoto Protocol" treaty to limit the production of
greenhouse gases is too weak to have a measureable effect on global temperatures in the next 50 years.
The changes necessary
to forestall most of the future warming are so massive, they will require new and abundant
sources of energy that don't rely on petroleum or coal.
Some people believe that legislative action is necessary to force industry to reduce greenhouse gas
emissions. Of course, to the extent that this costs money, the consumer and the investor will bear the cost.
Other people believe that new energy technologies will come as a natural result of economic market forces, without
the need for legislative action. In this view, as fossil fuels
gradually become more expensive in the coming decades, new technologies will be developed to meet the need.
While solar and wind energy sound attractive, their energy intensity is relatively low,and their cost is still
relatively high. While they can contribute somewhat to our energy needs, large areas of
land would have to be covered with solar collectors or wind turbines in order to generate substantial energy.
Unless most countries decide that nuclear power is acceptable (like France has), we will be needing a new energy technology.
But in the meantime, enjoy "The Day After Tomorrow" for what it is -- science fiction entertainment -- not a