Tuesday, April 27, 2004

A Major Motion Picture?
Do movies influence public opinion? The best recent example I can think of is "Wag the Dog", which became part of the vernacular during the Clinton administration. I'm sure a movie critic could think of others. As I mentioned in my blog of March 2, 2004, this Memorial Day weekend features the release of an action film about the effects of sudden--really sudden--climate change. Some fear it could have a similar impact, while others hope that it will.

Sunday's New York Times reported that NASA had issued a memo to employees asking them not to comment publicly on the science behind "The Day After Tomorrow". Climate change is always politically sensitive, but this year it has the potential to become an election issue.

As a public agency, it may be appropriate for NASA to eschew a role that could turn political, though as one of several federal agencies receiving funding to work on this issue, it also has some responsibility to improve the public's knowledge on the subject. To NASA's management, this must look like a good way to get into a crossfire. At the same time, the article indicates that some supporters of urgent action to combat climate change worry that this film could trivialize the subject, rather than galvanizing the public.

In reality, I suspect neither side has much to worry about. After all, "Deep Impact", a fairly serious movie about a comet hitting the earth--backed up by solid research--didn't energize support for programs such as NASA's Spacewatch any more than did its silly competitor, "Armageddon."

At any rate "The Day After Tomorrow" looks like a lot of fun and has a good pedigree in the action film world, coming from the director of "Independence Day". Will it stir up the debate on global warming and the potential for sudden climate change? Only time and audience polling will tell.

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