Sure, we could destroy the planet just through run-of-the-mill pollution, turning the Earth into a plant-free landfill, as in Silent Running or WALL-E. But the burning of fossil fuels could wipe out civilization in other ways, too. Or we could spew so much carbon into the atmosphere that we accelerate global warming past the point of no return.
Waterworld imagined that the melting of the polar ice caps would flood the planet and submerge all land beneath the sea; apparently, the only creature that could save humanity in such a scenario was a man who looked like Kevin Costner but who could breathe through gills and drink his own urine. Not even Al Gore has predicted a nightmare that extreme.
More likely is that the melting icecaps would mess with ocean currents, alter weather patterns, and generate extreme climate events. In The Day After Tomorrow (pictured), all this happens not over decades but days. Instant ice age: just add cold water. This was the most explicit example yet of the Disaster Movie as Polemic, but the takeaway may have been that we’d better not allow global warming to get worse or else dreamy Jake Gyllenhaal might catch a chill.
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