The Day After Tomorrow

If you think that the weather is bad right now, it’s nothing compared to what it could be. Dave Wilson explains.

Tornadoes rip through Los Angeles, a massive snow storm pounds New Delhi, hail the size of grapefruit batters Tokyo and in New York City, the temperature swings from sweltering to freezing in one day. All because of one thing – climate change.

With a premise like this, who could resist Mr. Emmerich’s latest disaster – (Shouldn’t that be disaster film? – Ed.) The Day After Tomorrow? I couldn’t. And so last weekend, I took a trip to the pictures to see what the fuss was all about.

And my goodness, dear reader, what an exciting motion picture it turned out to be! I was quite on the edge of my seat as I watched climatologist Dennis Quaid battle the elements to rescue his young son and girlfriend from a rather chilly library in ice age New York.

Inevitably, after the film ended, the folks leaving the cinema engaged in heated debate about the possibility of whether or not Mr. Emmerich’s piece of science fiction could ever become reality. Most agreed that it was probably most unlikely.

But, the folks at the Earth Institute at Columbia University would disagree. They have studied the climate of the earth over tens of thousands of years. And they claim that it has changed abruptly in the past. So maybe it could again.

There’s lots of evidence, they say, of a catastrophic drying of Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq) around 4,200 years ago, coincident with the collapse of the Akkadian Empire. Collapses of advanced Indian civilisations in North, Central and South America within the last two thousand years also coincided with well-documented droughts. These, they say, must have been caused by abrupt shifts in the circulations of the atmosphere and ocean – but the folks at Columbia do not know how or why these occurred. Nevertheless, there is some fear that greenhouse warming could cause these shifts in ocean circulation to happen again!

Unless, of course, we do something about it. Fortunately, here in the EU, we are starting to get our act together when it comes to reducing greenhouse warming. That’s because all EU member states have agreed to produce 22% of their electricity by renewable sources by 2010. It’s a grand aim, and the latest reports out of the EU indicate that, although they might not hit the target exactly, it is likely that 18 to 19% of electricity will be produced from renewable energy sources in 2010.

Unfortunately, with admirable efforts like these, the scenario played out in ‘The Day After Tomorrow ‘might never happen. And that’s a pity, because I was quite looking forward to being stuck in a New York library with a pretty girl for an extended period of time. (In your dreams – Ed.).

<b>A reader replies</b>

Sir:

One local candidate in the European elections in my area is running under the ‘Save the Hills’ (or something similar) banner which is calling for all future wind-farms to be opposed in the view of the fact that they will ruin the countryside (and thus affect tourism income for Scotland). I suppose that the sea would have to rise somewhat to submerge the Highlands of Scotland, but I would have thought this is a fairly short-term view of things!

Andrew Cowell