Movie Review: The Day After Tomorrow
31 May 2004
Is ‘global warming’ a reality? If so, will it cause another ice age? Does the Bible’s account of history mention a past ice age? What other effects could ‘global warming’ have on the earth and its inhabitants? How should a Christian respond to these and other concerns over the environment? These questions and more are likely to be asked by Christians who watch 20th Century Fox’s latest film, The Day After Tomorrow.
Roland Emmerich, the director of Independence Day, presents another worldwide disaster movie with stunning visual effects. In the film, an abrupt climate change created by global warming quickly leads to catastrophic effects of ‘biblical proportions’ on the entire planet. Effects range from giant hailstones in Tokyo and twisters in Los Angeles to the climax—another ice age in the Northern Hemisphere. Weather phenomena of such enormous scale allowed the filmmakers to create unforgettable images—multiple tornadoes ripping through skyscrapers (shown at right) and a tsunami-like wave engulfing the Statue of Liberty (shown at top) and gushing through New York City were just a few examples. In the midst of global chaos, however, the film focuses on the desperate efforts of climatologist Jack Hall, played by Dennis Quaid, to find his son who has been trapped in a snap-frozen New York City.
The movie is appropriately rated PG-13 for ‘intense situations of peril’ and includes a few cases of bad language. Otherwise, it is safe for teens and adults alike. Despite its high entertainment value, the film has a clear agenda: global warming is a serious matter that should be a top priority for the government, and those who ignore the obvious warnings are foolish. For example, Jack Hall drives an electric-powered vehicle amidst a sea of gas-guzzling SUV’s. Jack also repeatedly warns the Vice President of the United States (who happens to look very similar to Dick Cheney) of the impending climatic doom. The Vice President stubbornly ignores the obvious conclusions from the scientific data and does not heed Jack’s warnings because of the economic implications of evacuating northern US cities. Millions perish—including the US President (Al-Gore–like)—as a result of his negligence. While many climate scientists believe the science of the movie is poor, they are pleased that it is raising the awareness of global warming issues.
In addition to the hyper-environmentalist agenda, the movie also takes pot-shots at Christianity and is sprinkled with evolutionary ideas. In one such scene, Jack’s son Sam finds himself taking shelter in a New York public library with a handful of other survivors—among them are two employees from the library. To stay warm, the survivors and the reluctant library personnel begin to burn some books in a fireplace. The male employee is shown tightly holding onto a rare copy of the Gutenberg Bible—the first printed book in history—hoping to save it from the flames. Another survivor questions his motives by asking if he expects God to save him. He replies that he does not believe in God. Rather, he is only saving this early edition of the Bible because its printing represents the beginning of ‘The Age of Reason.’ Subtle evolutionary ideas are evident in an earlier scene where students are shown standing in front of a mural depicting human evolution.
As to how the movie ends, you’ll have to find out for yourselves. I recommend this movie as good clean entertainment with this one bit of advice: bring your biblical glasses to the theatre! At [CMI], our mission is to arm you with resources that help you answer the skeptics, defend your faith, and teach you to see the world through the lens of Scripture. Equipping Christians with answers helps the church to more effectively proclaim the Gospel. Here are some answers to questions that will likely be generated by Christians who enjoy this film:
Is ‘global warming’ a reality?
Early in the film, Jack gives a lecture in New Delhi warning that global warming will gradually cause the polar ice caps to melt, introducing fresh water into the oceans, and disrupting the North Atlantic currents. This process results in a rise in sea level (flooding) and cold weather setting in across the Northern Hemisphere.
Global warming is a predicted result of the ‘Greenhouse Effect.’ Certain gases in the atmosphere, mainly water vapor, carbon dioxide (CO2), and methane (CH4), trap heat from escaping the earth. People and animals breathe out CO2 while plants absorb CO2. The burning of large amounts of fossil fuels and the clearing of vegetation to make room for an ever-growing population, however, can upset this delicate balance and lead to an increasing amount of CO2. Simple physics suggests that, all else being equal, the average temperature of the Earth will gradually increase due to these rising CO2 levels–hence the term ‘global warming.’
Many climate scientists are seriously alarmed about this effect, and the resultant climate disasters it might bring. Others, however, are skeptical of the reality of the greenhouse/global warming effect. This includes meteorologist Michael Oard (recently retired from the National Weather Service and now available for creation speaking). The fact that there is disagreement over whether increased CO2 levels will cause a hotter world, a colder world, or have no effect whatsoever raises an important point. Evolutionary scientists can’t agree on what is happening to the temperature in the present, yet they pronounce with certainty on the temperature a few seconds after their supposed ‘big bang’ billions of years ago?
Does the Bible mention an Ice Age?
In the film, Jack bases his warnings of an impending catastrophe on his studies about similar weather patterns inferred from the past—he specifically mentions an ice age. The term ‘ice age’ is not clearcut; one hears about a ‘mini ice age’ in which the climate generally became cooler. But THE Ice Age refers to the evidence of a time when there were not just cold temperatures, but great ice sheets-glaciers-covering large parts of the northern and southern hemispheres. Many Christians are not aware of the fact that the Bible actually provides the best mechanism for a great Ice Age—a global Flood. Paradoxically, warmer waters are needed to give the massive evaporation required to ‘pump’ huge volumes of water out of the oceans into the atmosphere so they can give the increased snowfall needed to form the ice sheets. Michael Oard has written books and given several lectures on this subject. See the following interview between Carl Wieland and Mike Oard, Tackling the big freeze.
Could ‘global warming’ cause another ice age?
This is highly unlikely and just where the movie transitions from reasonable to sensational. In the May 27th issue of USA Today, Andrew Weaver, a climate scientist of Canada’s University of Victoria, is reported to say that the effects of a freshwater dump into the Atlantic would only shift the Gulf Stream slightly east. As a result Canada’s Labrador Sea may see lower temperatures. The effects on the rest of the world, however, appear negligible because global warming means hotter summers—not very conducive to an ice age. Weaver says, ‘It’s the Towering Inferno of climate science movies, but I’m not losing any sleep over a new ice age, because it’s impossible.’
However, even though the movie’s science is generally acknowledged as seriously flawed, at least it draws attention to the fact that ‘icing’ may be the result of ‘warming,’ though not in the way it depicts. This film is a great opportunity for Christians to start a conversation about the real Ice Age and how the Bible explains it; see the web version of a chapter from our popular The Creation Answers Book entitled What about the Ice Age? Showing people in such ways how the Bible connects to, and explains, reality has often led to solid conversions.
What other effects may ‘global warming’ have?
There are various views amongst creationists as to what effect ‘global warming’ could have on the earth. As Carl Wieland states in his article, Fouling the Nest, ‘The generally predicted result is an increase in mean global temperature, with effects on human society ranging from mild to catastrophic. Warmer oceans would mean more water vapor (which traps even more heat) and expanded ocean volumes. This, coupled with partial melting of the ice sheets, would raise average sea levels, submerging whole communities, even entire small island nations. The drastic weather effects could include huge droughts in Australia, flooding and landslides in the western US, and much greater hurricane/cyclone activity. Paradoxically, the Gulf Stream might slow down or stop, so northern Europe would get much colder.’
Conversely, Wieland also presents the case that the massive evaporation of oceans caused by global warming could lead to increased cloud cover reflecting more heat from the sun back into space—actually cooling the earth. However, depending on the type of cloud cover, he points out, it could actually do the opposite, though current modeling suggests that cooling is more likely. Atmospheric scientist Dr Larry Vardiman, of the Institute for Creation Research, calls this a created ‘thermostat’ mechanism intended to cope with temperature fluctuations and prevent a runaway greenhouse effect.
How should a Christian respond to these and other concerns over the environment?
The Bible clearly teaches that God made humans the stewards of the earth—giving them the responsibility of caring for what has been entrusted to them. In Genesis 1:28, God told Adam and Eve to ‘Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’ Genesis 2:15 states, ‘Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it.’
Once Adam disobeyed God, however, we became a fallen and sinful race living in a cursed world. Man lost his ability to be a perfect steward. Even though the resources God created are there for our use, man has often exploited them at the expense of his fellow man. How wrong it is to cause needless loss and destruction of other parts of God’s creation.
Alternatively, much of the focus of the environmentalist movement is evolutionary and pantheistic, worshipping the creature rather than the Creator (Romans 1). This modern movement ignores the biblical mandate to rule over the earth and subdue it, and it replaces God’s Word as the ultimate authority. Is it necessarily wrong to develop energy sources such as coal, natural gas, petroleum, etc.? Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 states that there is a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time for war and a time for peace. We need to adopt and develop a Christian environmental ethic based on God’s Word all the while understanding that our sinful nature may blind us.
The movie’s title, The Day After Tomorrow, implies that there is a crisis coming and we need to be ready. While the movie may be incorrect about another ice age there really is a crisis coming—Judgment Day. Hebrews 9:27 says, ‘. it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.’ 2 Corinthians 5:10 states, ‘For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.’ Do you believe the Word of God and trust in Christ for the forgiveness of your sins? If so, are you living out your faith? Are you able to defend your faith in a culture that no longer recognizes the Bible as authoritative? As 1 Peter 3:15 teaches, we need to be ready to give an answer for why we have hope as Christians.