"Day After Tomorrow" Ice Age "Impossible," Researcher Says

Stefan Lovgren
for National Geographic News
May 27, 2004

In the new movie The Day After Tomorrow, abrupt climate change plunges the planet into total chaos. As tornadoes rip through Hollywood landmarks and grapefruit-size hail pounds Tokyo, New York City turns into an icy wasteland—all in a matter of days.

It may just be a high-octane summer blockbuster, but environmentalists hope The Day After Tomorrow will serve as a wake-up call about global climate change.

National Geographic News spoke with Tom Prugh—senior editor at the Worldwatch Institute in Washington, D.C.—to hear what he thought of the movie, which he saw at an advance screening.

So should we brace ourselves for another ice age?

No, I don't think so. The scenario in the movie is fictional. Like some other Hollywood movies that claim to be based on true stories, there's a kernel of truth that is then pumped full of steroids and given cosmetic surgery.

But is global warming real?

The overwhelming scientific consensus is that global warming is real, and that it's upon us now. In the last century, the average temperature of the Earth has warmed roughly 1° Fahrenheit [0.56° Celsius]. That means an enormous additional amount of heat energy has been built into the system, and there are serious consequences to that warming.

What role does human activity play in global warming?

The atmosphere of the Earth is like a blanket that traps heat. It keeps the temperature at the surface of the Earth about 50° or 60° [Fahrenheit/28° or 33° Celsius] warmer than it would be otherwise, which is great because it makes the world a pleasant place to live. But humans have been adding to the gases that help trap this heat.

We've been adding to the stock of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by taking coal, oil, and natural gas out of the ground and burning them as fuels. Combined with deforestation, this has raised the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by about one-third since pre-industrial times.

And what does this do the welfare of the Earth?

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