If you’re hotter than me, does that make me cooler than you?


The Day After Tomorrow. Where will you be?

The movie The Day After Tomorrow created a huge hoo-ha when it first appeared in the theatres. The show not only generated huge responses from the general public such as moviegoers, but also to climatologists
 and other scientists, politicians and advocacy groups.

In the article, ‘Before and after the day after tomorrow: A U.S. study of climate change risk perception’, Leiserowitz examines the following questions behind the movie,

‘What impact, if any, did the film have on public risk perceptions and conceptual models of climate change?’

‘Did the film make moviegoers more or less willing to take personal actions to reduce their own greenhouse gas emissions?’

‘Did it change their political priorities or voting intentions?’

Public risk perception of global climate change

Even though the movie might have exaggerated events that lacked scientific truth, it provided an avenue that allowed climatologist to explain the different concepts and created awareness about global warming.

It gave the audience a “teachable moment”, seen by climatologist as ‘
an opportunity to not only critique the film but to more constructively educate the public about climate change’. The movie was also a contributing factor and a strong influence towards the watcher’s awareness and attitude towards global warming, allowing them to perceive global warming as a threat.

Conceptual Models of climate change

The movie gave the audience a brief overview that there is a threshold towards the climate system, that the climate system is only substantial and stable within certain limits before collapsing.

Climate change is still perceived as an unpredictable system, especially since it is based on the audience’s own experience and understanding of the unpredictable daily weather. Apart from that, they are unable to predict any further consequences, and unable to depicter what would happen next.

Behavioral intentions

Individuals are seen to be more willing to make their stand on reducing the cause towards global warming. They show interest in doing their part by either reducing one’s own emission, willingness to join an organization to promote global warming awareness, taking up a stand to politicians, and spreading the importance of conservation via word of mouth. ‘The more important an issue is perceived to be, the more people talk about it, which in turn leads to an increase in perceived issue importance, and so on, in a positive feedback loop’.

Politics and voting

Moviegoers are more prone to have a higher level of worry and concern about global warming after watching the movie. They also acquired the knowledge about the drastic measures global warming can cause. The movie also encouraged audiences to be more involved with the issue of climate change, and be engaged in social, personal and political actions. Thus, audiences are more skeptical about the people they want to run the government. Items such as whether the government are helping the environment, or trusting the government to tell them the truth, became a factor.

The influence of the movie towards audiences

Impact on public risk perceptions? Check.

Impact on conceptual models of climate change? Check.

Individual actions to address global warming? Check.

Influence towards voters preferences? Check.


Apart from the scientific accuracy and 
political implications of the film aside, I personally felt that The Day After Tomorrow was a good movie. It is a Hollywood Blockbuster ‘popcorn movie’ after all, with exceptional good visual effects. Two thumbs up to the filmmakers for sparking the interest of such a huge audience!

Have you watched the movie The Day After Tomorrow? If so, how did the movie create an impact on you? Did it change your perception about the consequences of global warming and climate change? If you hadn’t watched it, does the thought of this huge catastrophic event (fingers crossing that it remains fictional) spark your interest into helping society with recycling and saving the environment?


Leiserowitz, A. (2004). Before and after the day after tomorrow: A U.S. study of climate change risk perception. Environment, 46(9), 22-37. Available at <http://environment.yale.edu/leiserowitz/pubs.html>

The Day After Tomorrow Photo. Available at <http://www.popartuk.com/g/l/lglg0078.jpg>


8 comments on “If you’re hotter than me, does that make me cooler than you?

  1. Nice post. It’s been a while since I saw this film and from what I can remember, the terrifying consequences of climate change aspect didn’t spark much concern for me. Whilst it was an entertaining movie, It was a bit over sensationalised and found it as much believable as the next blockbuster featuring aliens or superheroes. I think the creators of this film exploit climate change more to produce an interesting story, rather than worry about informing people of the consequences of global warming.

    • Thanks for your comment! I agree with you that when I watched the movie, I was more blown away by the effects and storyline. The consequences of climate change might have been brought up, but people were too engross with the effects to have noticed it.

      Having said that, I believe the storywriters did have a good intention of bringing up the importance of climate change. When this movie came out when I was in high school, my geography teacher loved this movie so much that he spent the whole lesson talking about this movie. I would also be reminded of this movie whenever I see a picture of the status of liberty covered in snow.

  2. Interesting post, I haven’t actually seen the movie but I do see problems with sensationalising and misrepresenting science.

    I think when something is hyped up too much people become exhausted with the content and cease to care more quickly – especially with doomsday scenarios. I have a friend who has worked for Greenpeace for a number of years who is now saying “oh well the world is *&^%$# might as well just enjoy it now” because she was fed with so much catastrophic data. Even I didn’t want to hear another word about climate change after the whole Al Gore era.

    Not being accurate to the science is another issue, when science says one thing and another happens we risk loosing the trust of the audience. In saying that I don’t know if this movie was claiming to be scientifically accurate. If it wasn’t people should know it was just a movie.

    I would be interested so see if any attitudes were changed long-term or if it was just because it was fresh.

    • I agree with you, I was too caught up with the effects and storyline when I first saw the movie. There are so many movies that highlights doomsday scenarios nowadays that people just perceived it as yet another blockbuster movie.

      I guess that it is hard to interprete the whole climate change scenario- just look the weather in Perth this spring. It is supposed to be getting hot and sunny, but the temperature has its highs and lows peaks, with temperatures dropping to single digits at nights. What we can do is to try and help the environment, to reduce, reuse and recycle.

  3. I’ve watched the movie (actually did enjoy it) and thought it was a really good movie to increase awareness of the severity of climate change. However, I thought that it was over-dramatic and that brought down the credibility of it actually occurring in real life. But having said that, what’s a movie without the drama or action? That’s what people pay to watch!

    I think it does encourage the general public to think about possible catastrophic events that could occur in the future but it perhaps isn’t quite enough to spur viewers to immediately start recycling or trying to save the environment. Humans are by nature selfish creatures and they would be more likely to act on something if they get to benefit from doing it, rather than acting to prevent something (in this case,drastic climate change) that may or may not happen in their lifetime.

    • Thanks for your comment! I enjoyed the movie as well, and was wowed over more by the special effects. I agree with you that the producers might have made the movie too dramatic and lost its credibility in the process. I guess that it is hard to balance out being both scientific accurate without boring the audience or jeopardising any entertainment value.

      The movie did help to make audience think about the catastrophic event of the environment, and the way our lives are tied to it. I agree that the movie showed more about the consequence of the climate change, instead of the ways we could do to improve the environment. I guess it would have be better if the movie had incorporated the ways to help the environment, such as reducing, reusing and recycling.

  4. One study looked at purchases of carbon-offset flights following the release of the movie. They found purchases did increase, but dropped back to normal within a month. But even a short-term change helps!

    Jacobsen, G. D. (2011). The Al Gore effect: An Inconvenient Truth and voluntary carbon offsets. Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, 61(1), 67-78

    • I guess every little thing we do would contribute to the environment, and everyone has a part to play. If everyone were to take small little steps in helping the environment, think about the greater cause and how it would benefit society!

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