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25.4.04

Knee-Jerk Secrecy

NASA Curbs Comments On Ice Age Disaster Movie

In "The Day After Tomorrow," a $125 million disaster film set to open on May 28, global warming from accumulating smokestack and tailpipe gases disrupts warm ocean currents and sets off an instant ice age.

Few climate experts think such a prospect is likely, especially in the near future. But the prospect that moviegoers will be alarmed enough to blame the Bush administration for inattention to climate change has stirred alarm at the space agency, scientists there say.

"No one from NASA is to do interviews or otherwise comment on anything having to do with" the film, said the April 1 message, which was sent by Goddard's top press officer. "Any news media wanting to discuss science fiction vs. science fact about climate change will need to seek comment from individuals or organizations not associated with NASA."

-- via Quark Soup


Obviously, the administration would prefer there to be no movie about climate change, and a movie showing climate change to be especially bad is especially bad for an administration that downplays the threat. But in terms of public comment, it seems that it would be in the administration's interest to let its scientists talk all they want.

Sure, they may say that there is a danger of some climate change. The net impact of the movie, regardless of the scientific comment will be to raise public concern. But because the movie is hyperbolic, scientific comment has the potential to dampen concern. The central storyline that will make the biggest impression on people is this:

Movie: Oh no! Catastrophic climate change!
Scientists: Calm down, it won't be that bad.

That's great for people who want to argue that the science is still uncertain on climate change. There's a tendency among a large sector of the population to eat up "debunking," so that angle will be more salient the more scientists get involved.

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