Waves smash through cities; tornadoes rip buildings apart; and people scramble to survive in “The Day After Tomorrow” — a disaster film about a sudden ice age triggered by climate change.

PhotoThe movie hit theaters in 2004 and inspired a new film genre — Cli-Fi — movies that depict a future radically altered by human-caused climate change.

But cli-fi movies do not necessarily inspire people to fight climate change in real life. Michael Svoboda, at George Washington University, points to the extreme circumstances and futuristic technology portrayed in cli-fi movies such as “Interstellar” and “Snowpiercer.”

Svoboda: “You make climate change seem overwhelming, or unreal, and I think you also make the present seem kind of inept at dealing with the problem.”

But Svoboda says more regionally focused films could make a bigger impact:

Svoboda: “I think extreme weather and how that can impact more local, rather than global communities, is one way that Hollywood could make an exciting film that has implications for climate change and doesn’t oversell the problem or undersell our capacity to deal with it.”

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media.
Photo: From the movie “Interstellar”.

Editor’s Note: Headline edited Jan. 10, 2015.

More Resources
Download the 5-Part Series: A Review of Climate Fiction (Cli-Fi) Cinema…Past and Present
A Review of Climate Fiction (Cli-Fi) Cinema…Past and Present (First of a 5-part series)
Also see resource links to other cli-fi sources accompanying each feature.

Bud Ward was editor of Yale Climate Connections from 2007-2022. He started his environmental journalism career in 1974. He later served as assistant director of the U.S. Congress's National Commission...