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On Friday 28 May, the $125m film from 20th Century Fox, opens in cinemas worldwide. It is directed by Roland Emmerich, (director of "Independence Day" and "Godzilla,") and depicts a near-future world where rapid climate change is taking place, including the cooling of Northern Europe and the Northern USA.

"The Day After Tomorrow" stars Dennis Quaid as a climatologist and Jake Gyllenhaal as his son. The trailer (available on www.thedayaftertomorrow.com)shows the Statue of Liberty being swamped by a tidal wave. As tornadoes batter Los Angeles and snow storms pound New Delhi, the climatologist finds himself in a battle to find a way to stop the ice age that is gripping the east coast of the US.

The science in the film
WWF-UK, like many other environmental NGO's, believes that the film will bring mass audiences to the screen similar to Independence Day, and hopes that if this disaster movie can help to activate the climate change debate and raise mass public awareness, then it has done the cause a service.

Furthermore, the UK's MetOffice says: "the timescales depicted may be unrealistic, but some of the science behind the movie is real enough." More information is available on their website at http://www.metoffice.com

According to The New York Times, climatologists at NASA have been ordered not to comment on the film for fear of upsetting a US Government that has refused to sign the global Kyoto Protocol aimed at reducing climate change emissions.

Also, Reuters News Agency recently reported that Roland Emmerich himself was persuaded by the green group Future Forests to make the movie "carbon neutral". As a result he paid $200,000 on a reforestation project in the Himalayas and on energy saving projects for poor families in the United States to offset the energy used during filming.

Climate change - the basic facts
Climate change is probably the biggest threat to the planet. We will see more unpredictable weather, more storms and rising seas, leading to floods, drought, failed harvests, climate refugees, the spread of disease and whole species being wiped out.

Naturally occurring gases in the atmosphere, principally water vapour and carbon dioxide trap heat from the Sun, keeping the Earth around 30°C warmer than it would otherwise be. Without these greenhouse gases most water on the Earth would be trapped as ice and life would be impossible. Unfortunately human activities have been adding to the Greenhouse Effect, causing the world to heat up and weather patterns to change.

The major human contributions to climate change are from carbon dioxide (CO2), methane and nitrous oxide, and from a range of artificial industrial chemical - CFCs, HCFCs, HFCs and PFCs.

Climate changes have been predicted by large and complex computer models. These models try to take into account many different effects like how the oceans affect climate and what the cloud cover is doing. The world is already 0.5°C warmer than in 1900 and the predictions are for a warming of between 2 and 5°C by 2100. These predictions sound trivial but in reality they are more rapid than anything experienced during the last 10,000 years and the difference between the global temperature now and during the last ice age is only a few degrees.

UK greenhouse gas emissions
According to official figures (Air Quality, DEFRA 2003) and despite the government's Climate Change Programme's 'best efforts' the UK's CO2 emissions actually increased by 1.5 per cent in 2003, which is very disappointing. Whereas, overall, between 1990 and 2001 the UK managed greenhouse gas emission reductions of around 15 per cent, but these were mainly a result of the coincidental coal-mine closures in the 1980's and the 'dash for gas' in the 1990's.

Targets
The Kyoto Protocol requires a 12.5 per cent cut in UK emissions (of a basket of six greenhouse gases, including CO2) by the average of 2008-2012. Then, in 1997, the Labour manifesto promised a UK domestic target of a 20 per cent cut in CO2 by 2010. Also, Tony Blair has said the UK should reduce its emissions of CO2 from the whole UK economy by 60 per cent by 2050, in line with the RCEP's conclusions.

What our climate change expert thinks
Dr Catarina Cardoso, Head of WWF-UK's Climate Change Programme said: "The Day After Tomorrow is an action film but the scale of the impacts, if global warming goes unchecked, are a real threat. The timing is certainly exaggerated, but then the film has never claimed to be accurate in all areas.

"Storms, floods, refugees, much of what the film show, already exist in parts of the world. Climate change does not happen exactly as in this film - but what many of us don't realise is that the Day After Tomorrow is already reality for millions of people worldwide. The United Nations estimate that more than 20 million people die every year as a result of natural disasters, many linked to climate change. In Bangladesh, for example, hundreds of thousands of people lost their homes recently because of flood catastrophes.

"Although the movie distorts climate change impacts, this is a good opportunity to raise awareness on the reality of the issue. This is a good platform to let the world know about how climate change is affecting each and everyone, and that something has to be done to address the situation now. The film does provide a good base of information on the life of a climate scientist - the gathering of data, assessment of impacts and attempts to inform political leaders of the risks. Hopefully in the real world, we will have more success than they did in the film with the Vice President of the United States and other world leaders."
Power station © PJ Banks/WWF-UK
The major human contributions to climate change are from carbon dioxide (CO2), methane and nitrous oxide, and from a range of artificial industrial chemical - CFCs, HCFCs, HFCs and PFCs.

The real facts
To find out more about climate change visit our online research centre.

Flooding, UK © WWF-UK/E Parker
We will see more unpredictable weather, more storms and rising seas, leading to floods, drought, failed harvests, climate refugees, the spread of disease and whole species being wiped out.

Windfarms help cut down on emissions of greenhouse gases © Dorothy Burrows/WWF-UK
Windfarms help to cut down on emissions of greenhouse gases