Pacific Swell | Southern California environment news and trends

Climate ultimatum, negotiation or apocalypse

The summer The Day After Tomorrow came out, I was a fellow at a workshop at the University of Rhode Island's Metcalf Institute for Marine & Environmental Reporting. It was a fascinating time for oceans, with the Pew Oceans Commission and the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy in full swing. (Not to mention heaven if you've got a jones for the sea. Or seafood.)

Five years later, some of what I learned has changed. But I still remember the way oceanographers had their knickers in a twist over scientific inaccuracies in the movie. This is terrible! It could never happen! It's misleading and confusing and just plain wrong! The film's been good fodder for scientific accuracy geeks. It did stretch reputable science to apocalyptic lengths.

And I love it.

I just read a book loaned to me by KPCC listener and renaissance man Mark Robison. The book, by Matthew Glass, is called Ultimatum. I think it's like a summer beach reading cousin of The Day After Tomorrow, with more Realpolitik. In the year 2032, a President has to confront scientific evidence that global warming is happening faster still than the public knows - and publicly, the world's already making plans to run to higher ground because of sea rise. Kyoto's a failure; the U-S attempts secret bilateral negotiations with China to cut emissions. And China ain't playin'.

Is it fair to China? Maybe not. I'd love to get it into the hands of a China scholar. But I chewed through it pretty fast in my side yard on a pleasant summer afternoon, and I've chewed over US-China relations on environmental issues, in reading, and with friends. For me, it did more good than harm; I know it's fiction.

I wonder, though, how closely does advocacy have to relate to fact to persuade? I think I know what Roland Emmerich and Matthew Glass think about that. I suspect I know what some scientists say, at least. What if you're neither a director nor an anonymous author, nor a climatologist?

Matthew Glass is a pseudonym for someone who lives in England. I asked his publisher to send a few questions on to him. I'll have those in the next entry.