The building where I work has a sophisticated fire alarm system. It is incredibly sensitive and on a regular basis the alarm went off, without having a fire. In the beginning everybody fled the building as quick as possible and then later got to hear that it was just a false alarm. A lot of things could trigger it. Some dust, high humidity in a room,… After a while people didn’t react to it anymore. When an alarm sounded again, someone went to the control box and muted the alarm. As far as I can see, the control is now disabled for quite a while.
I had to think about this when I watched the alarmentory “Before The Flood” from Leonardo DiCaprio. The movie is 1 hours 35 minutes long and as expected it is one-sided, superficial and rather predictable. It is a rehash of the usual style of images that the media is bombarding us with for several decades. Smoking chimney, cars, storms, wildfires, floods, droughts, melting ice, mass migration, coral reefs, the news flashes in the background describing the extremes,… All attributed to our emissions.
In the movie, several examples are shown that present the effects of climate change, like for example the loss of harvest because of unseasonal rain in India. This unseasonal rain is seen as the beginning of climate change and then connected to CO2. How unfortunate these unseasonal rains might be, they are happening within a complex, coupled, chaotic system with an incredible amount of variables. Yet in the movie it is reduced to just one: CO2.
I have no problem believing that climate change exists, even that man could have some influence on it. But I very much doubt that unseasonal rains will stop happening when we reduce or even stop emissions and the people of India will live happily ever after.
The same with the other examples of wildfires, floods, droughts,… I doubt that it is scientifically possible to attribute any of these extreme events to just one variable in a vastly complex system.
The cliches are strong in this movie. The depictions of those bad, bad skeptics, who are of course paid by Big Oil and degrading the Earth for their own short-term gain, the absolute certainties in which the science is brought, confusing pollution with CO2, the gish-galopping its proposed effects,… DiCaprio even mentioned that before our emissions we had “a perfect planet with a perfect atmosphere” and the scientist he interviewed acknowledged…
Although the movie was quite boring (we have seen these images many, many times before), when looking at it with my own background in mind, there are some interesting things I recognized. I predict a new series of posts in my direct future…
Nevertheless, I will have to admit that the movie is well-made. The images are crisp, the scenario is flowing, the music helps to bring the message home, DiCaprio is presenting his struggle which finally culminates into the speech at the end. From that perspective, it is brilliantly made. DiCaprio definitely knows how to tell a story.
The movie may be a new and nicely sounding alarm, but it was not the sound of the alarm that was the problem in the first place. The problem is that the alarm goes off even when there is no fire and this is what the movie is doing.