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Global Warming and Climate Change

Matt Abens
1152W
10-24-07
Argument Analysis Essay #2

Global Warming and Climate Change

In this paper I will (X) show how the movies The Day After Tomorrow and An Inconvenient Truth and the book Field Notes on a Catastrophe attempt to create awareness for the global warming problem (Y) by exploring the goals, objectives, and possible solutions of the writers and directors (Z) in order to display the effects of global warming and the small changes that may help our environment. I will first look at how pollution levels, mainly carbon dioxide, affect much of the Earth’s climatic events such as: temperature, weather, and water levels. Next I will describe how each movie and the book portray global warming as the prime factor of Earth’s climate change. I will end the paper by describing possible environmental changes outlined in the movies and book to help contain the rapid alterations of the climate through global warming.
Carbon Dioxide Levels and Temperature
There are no doubts among scientists that Earth’s water levels and average annual temperatures are rising every year. The weather and the strength of storms such as hurricanes and typhoons are also increasing in power each year. The tremendous damage done by hurricane Katrina, one of the strongest storms the country has ever seen, verifies this point. There are communities all over the world that are being evacuated and moved to other locations because of the rising sea levels and the stronger surges caused by ocean storms. The people of Shishmaref, Alaska have lived in their small village for hundreds of years using native techniques to hunt and support their families. The rise in average temperature has caused the sea to freeze later in the fall than it ever used too and thaw earlier in the spring than in the past. These events altered the traditional hunting patterns used by the villagers. It was no longer safe to walk on the ice so they began to use boats to hunt. This made it very difficult to hunt seals on the size of their current hunting grounds (Kolbert 8). Another problem caused by these temperature and sea level changes for the village was with the stronger storms; their houses and buildings were being destroyed. The destruction of the village caused by these storms led the community into making a decision of moving to the mainland in 2001. It is estimated that a full relocation of the village would cost the U.S. Government $180 million (Kolbert 9). This is a steep price considering all the other communities around the world that also need to be relocated.
In the last 25 years worldwide carbon dioxide emissions have continued to increase, from five billion to seven billion metric tons a year, causing the Earth’s temperature to also steadily rise. There is a new record for the highest annual temperature set every year, meaning that Earth is continuing to get hotter year in and year out. The world is now warmer than it has ever been in the last two thousand years, and, if these current trends continue, in the next 100 years it will likely be warmer than at any point in the last two million years (Kolbert 13). Nearly every major glacier and area of permafrost in the world is shrinking because of this added heat. The melted ice has to go somewhere, and that place is the oceans, which cause the increase in water levels. The melting of glaciers and permafrost all over the world also leads to the increase in carbon dioxide levels. There are grass and plants that are stored in the frozen permafrost, causing a storage unit of accumulated carbon. As this permafrost thaws, the storage process is reversed and the organic material that was frozen begins to break down, giving off carbon dioxide, which only adds to the overall problem (Kolbert 21).
During each of the most recent glacier periods, temperature dropped almost precisely in sync with falling carbon dioxide levels and during each warm period, when the ice retreated, temperature rose again with the carbon dioxide levels (Kolbert 33). This once again demonstrates that temperature levels depend heavily on the levels of carbon dioxide. As long as the carbon dioxide levels continue to rise at the current pace, the temperature levels will also match this pace and because of this maybe not in our lifetimes but our children’s lifetimes the climate and environment will be vastly different than what it is today.
Climate Change Caused by Global Warming
The movies An Inconvenient Truth and The Day After Tomorrow and the book Field Notes from a Catastrophe all share the same idea that the change in Earth’s climate is ultimately caused by global warming. They all agree that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases polluting the atmosphere cause and increase in temperature, which is responsible for global warming. Al Gore shows this in his movie when he brings up a large graph with the levels of carbon dioxide increasing and decreasing over the last hundred thousand years during the ice ages. Over the same time period, a graph of temperature also appears and exactly follows the line of carbon dioxide levels. The two lines look as if they should fit together. The evidence of this clip shows that carbon dioxide and temperature levels are related.
The Day After Tomorrow movie tries a different approach to creating awareness for global warming than Al Gore’s movie, whereby the director produces a farfetched plot that is not likely to ever occur. The story of an ice age really beginning in a matter of days is completely unrealistic and unbelievable to the average viewer. The director is trying to get his point across of decreasing pollution by trying to scare the audience into making the right choice. He hopes that if the audience becomes scared that an event such as this might happen, they will start to worry about global warming. The director can only be successful at this if the audience truly takes the movie to heart and attempts to alter their lifestyles to work for a change. If the viewer does not feel the same way about global warming and refuses to sacrifice to help the planet, then the movies did not accomplish anything at all but to entertain the public. This is similar to Josh Schollmeyer’s article “Lights, Camera, Armageddon?, which shows that most hit Hollywood films contain the worst case scenario in order to scare the viewer. Frequently directors will do this in the hope that popular culture they create will somehow encourage a certain policy change they believe in. An example of this is how citizens of the United States are no longer worried most about nuclear war and weapons, instead they are now mainly worried about biological weapons and terrorists (Schollmeyer 267). These events were caused by huge box office movies that have manipulated their plots to contain new doomsday scenarios, because people fear what they now nothing about, and fear sells movies. These two movies have created a large awareness for global warming and have frightened the general public into thinking about the environment and making changes for the better.
A Cure for Global Warming
Although the climate has already been affected by global warming, there are solutions to the problem that can be done to help both on the local and the global levels. Many individuals and communities are taking actions themselves to combat the role that global warming plays in climatic change. Many nations are also joining together to sign such agreements as the Kyoto protocol, which limits countries and industries carbon dioxide emissions. Professors and scientists all over the world are discovering new theories that they believe will solve the problem of global warming.
In Burlington, Vermont the citizens decided several years ago that instead of generating more power for the growing community, they would just use less of it (Kolbert 173). The people of Burlington were upset by the lack of action of the federal government regarding global warming, so they chose to make their own changes. In 2002 they launched an energy saving campaign known as the “10 percent challenge?. The city aimed to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 10 percent (Kolbert 174). Burlington discovered many fascinating ideas to accomplish its goal.
Instead of collecting rubbish at the county dump, the city began reselling it to people who could use it. This cut down on both the cities waste stream and the need for new materials. The Burlington Electric company now converts nearly 50 percent of its energy from renewable sources. They have added a wind turbine and a fifty-megawatt power plant that runs off of wood chips instead of heavily polluting coal power plants. Burlington’s supermarket is heavily stocked with local produce because produce shipped in can travel thousands of miles just to arrive at the store. Burlington encourages its citizens to turn off lights when they are not using them. They estimated that if a household usually leaves the porch light on at night using a standard light bulb, they could save 10 percent of the monthly electricity bill if they switch to compact fluorescent bulbs. The Burlington electric department estimates that the energy savings project that the city has undertaken will, over the course of their lifetimes, prevent the release of nearly 175,000 tons of carbon (Kolbert 176). If every singe town and city in the United States matched the efforts that Burlington has made, the aggregate savings would amount roughly to 1.3 billion tons of carbon over the next several decades (Kolbert 180). Although this wouldn’t completely solve the problem of global warming, it would be a giant step towards the solution.
Some people such as Claudia Deutsch think that we can effect global warming by watching what we eat. Many animal rights activists groups are stating that becoming a vegetarian or eating less meat will help create less greenhouse gasses. These groups believe that the livestock business creates more greenhouse gasses than all forms of transportation combined (Deutsch 2). This could be entirely possible because of all that goes into the process of raising cattle and transporting the processed meat to consumers. Grain needs to be transported and processed for the cattle to eat, then when the cows are ready to be butchered they must be transported again, and then they have to be transported yet again to various grocery stores or restaurants so they are available to consumers.
Robert Socolow, a theoretical physicist is one of many scientists to propose their own plans to reduce carbon dioxide levels in order to combat global warming. Socolow broke his plan down into manageable blocks called “stabilization wedges? that would help lower carbon dioxide emissions. He defined a stabilization wedge as a step that would be sufficient to prevent a billion metric tons of carbon per year from being emitted. With the current rate of 7 billion metric tons and the expected rate of 14 billion metric tons in the next fifty years, seven wedges would be needed to hold emissions constant at today’s level (Kolbert 137). Socolow came up with fifteen different theoretical wedges, eight more than were necessary. For example wedge number 11 is solar power and wedge number 10 is wind electricity, so each wedge has a certain role to reducing carbon dioxide emissions. There are two wedges related to automobiles, one is that all vehicles must be driven half as much and the other wedge is that all vehicles must be twice as efficient (Kolbert 141).
In today’s world there is no direct cost to emitting carbon dioxide, so it is not likely that any of Socolow’s wedges would voluntarily be implemented. But as stated in An Inconvenient Truth, “It might cost us more to do nothing, than to fight global warming?. This is why governments need to intervene and set up strict guidelines on carbon dioxide emissions no matter what it does to the economy. In The Day After Tomorrow the vice president was arguing that fixing the global warming problem would have to great of an effect on the economy, but Kolbert has a great example combating this opinion in her book. The United States has gone through a similar issue as this in the past. When we decided we did not want child labor, the price of goods increased but the loss in spending power and the effect on the economy was outweighed by the benefits of knowing our goods were produced ethically. There are many options that an individual or nation can embrace to help contain global warming so that Earth is a great place to live for our children and grandchildren.
The writers and directors of An Inconvenient Truth, The Day After Tomorrow, and Field Notes from a Catastrophe are trying to accomplish the same goals and objectives. They are attempting to connect with their worldwide audiences to inform them that global warming is a major issue in science today and the leading cause of climatic change. These sources have shown that the increase in carbon dioxide levels are raising the temperature of Earth every year, which is in effect altering weather patterns and ocean levels that have been relatively constant for centuries. There needs to be both a global and individual effort to reduce the emission levels of greenhouse gases in order to combat the climate change caused by global warming. This might not affect our lifetimes, but our children and grandchildren will be in the middle of the problem if our current lifestyle choices are not corrected.

Works Cited
An Inconvenient Truth. Dir. Davis Guggenheim. Perf. Al Gore. Paramount Classics, 2006.
Deutsch, Claudia H. “Trying to Connect the Dinner Plate to Climate Change.? New York Times 29 Aug. 2007.
Kolbert, Elizabeth. Field Notes From A Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change. New York: Bloomsbury, 2006.
Schollmeyer, Josh. “Lights, Camera, Armageddon? The Best American Science and Nature Writing. Ed. Brian Greene. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2006. 259-269.
The Day After Tomorrow. Dir. Roland Emmerich. Perf. Dennis Quaid and Jake Gyllenhaal. USA, 2004.