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Global Warming Movies: How Hollywood Has Handled Climate Change

By    |   Wednesday, 19 Nov 2014 03:57 PM

Hollywood has taken on climate change in a subgenre of films that has come to be known as climate fiction or “cli-fi.”

Opinions vary on how the genre might influence the global warming debate.

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“Hollywood has yet to adequately address the issue of climate change,” Noah Gittell wrote in a review of “Intersellar” for The Atlantic.

The movie is set in the future, with the Earth near collapse due to climate change, and people seeking another planet to inhabit. Gittell criticized the film's “false choice” to either leave Earth or die and said the film “left me wishing its solution did exist not in the dirt or the stars, but somewhere in between.”

Sean O Heigeartaigh, an academic project manager at the University of Oxford's Future of Humanity Institute, wrote in The New York Times that such films run the risk of misleading viewers.

He pointed to the 2004 film “The Day After Tomorrow,” directed by Roland Emmerich. The film follows climatologist Jack Hall, played by Dennis Quaid, as he tries to rescue his son when the world faces a new ice age with a series of weather-related disasters.

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The film’s sudden climate shift and other scientific errors may fuel skeptics, Heigeartaigh said. He said “the greatest contribution of this subgenre may be to cause us to care.”

George Marshall, founder of the Climate Outreach Information Network, predicted that the cli-fi genre would reinforce existing views rather than shifting attitudes.

“The unconvinced will see these stories as proof that this issue is a fiction, exaggerated for dramatic effect. The already convinced will be engaged, but overblown apocalyptic story lines may distance them from the issue of climate change,” he wrote in The New York Times.

Other recent films included in the cli-fi genre include “Snowpiercer” and “Night Moves.”


Set 18 years after the Earth becomes frozen, the remaining humans live on a train that is continuously circling the globe. Starring Chris Evans, the story is about an uprising among people in the back of the train, where life is cruel compared with the lavish lifestyle in the front of the train.

Night Moves

The 2013 film is about three environmentalists who plan to blow up a dam that they think is harming the environment.

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Hollywood has taken on climate change in a subgenre of films that has come to be known as climate fiction or “cli-fi.”
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Wednesday, 19 Nov 2014 03:57 PM
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