Act 1, Scene 1. Ten years ago.
While screen remains black, we hear a question being asked and answered. Fade in to see a long shot of a panel of leading scientists taking questions from a sparse audience in a large auditorium. One older and clearly revered climatologist stands, approaches the podium and explains to his peers and those in attendance:
“Climate change is real. The data are compelling and unavoidable and have been confirmed in many independent studies worldwide. All findings confirm that we have created a significant warming of the planet’s atmosphere. This is irrefutable. Unless specific and aggressive actions are taken, and taken soon, the warming will be irreversible. And catastrophic. Let me not mince words: The very future of our planet is at stake.”
His comments are clearly considered far-fetched by the majority in attendance. Several attendees leave during his summation, each with a look of disagreement, a few with disgust.
Quick cut to an image of a massive storm approaching an unspecified coast. Palm trees near their breaking point in the high, howling wind. Waves pound a sea wall. Segments of roofing are carried away in the wind. Boats bob dangerously in the marina. Some have come unmoored, others have capsized. Water covers the adjacent roadway.
Fade to black.
Act 1, Scene 2. Present day.
In a series of short segments, we are introduced to individuals and families who we know will soon be threatened, harmed or killed by atmospheric events related to global warming. In rapid succession, we meet: a Puerto Rican farming family; a high school football player in Santa Rosa, California; a Highway Patrolman stationed in Houston, Texas; a mother and father of three young children living in the Amazon; an environmental scientist at the University of South Carolina; a researcher living in an remote outpost tracking the melting of glaciers in Greenland; a rancher and her children in Australia; and a senior member of the Environmental Protection Agency in Washington, D.C., who, we learn, has been instrumental in the Administration’s efforts to invalidate the data supporting climate change and who fully ignores the impending signs of global warming. He will soon join his family currently vacationing on a small island in the Florida Keys. (But of course they are. It’s the movies.)
Act 1, Scene 3. Present day.
Video clips taken from television, speeches, testimony before Congressional committees, and press conferences show scientists outlining data supporting the concept of global warming. Dire warnings are provided; impassioned pleas are made. Images of recent hurricanes, flooding, massive forest fires, smog-shrouded cities, freeways filled with bumper-to-bumper traffic, dense factory smoke, seared and cracked river beds, drought-damaged crops, melting glaciers, a sweltering Paris. Video of school-aged children in Australia required, by law, to wear large-billed hats while in sunlight and, now, face masks to protect against the smoke. Visuals of vast herds of cows while a voiceover explains the devastating power of methane gas. We are told repeatedly that humanity has a mere 10 years to take aggressive action if the debilitating effects of global warming are to be reversed — if they can be reversed at all.
Simultaneously, in a split screen format, we see video from speeches, press conferences, and interviews with members of the Administration debunking the claims of scientists regarding global warming, which is referred to repeatedly as ‘a hoax.’ Headlines from leading newspapers are used to inform us of the many steps the Administration has taken to dismantle the EPA, reverse regulations and undo global alliances designed to protect the environment, and to enable mining and drilling, especially in national parks and other areas previously exempt from these activities.
Slow fade to black as an image of the headline of a newspaper article claiming that wind turbines cause cancer, kill birds and reduce property value is seen with a voiceover from a member of the Administration saying, “The radical Left wants you to believe that humans have caused the change in our climate. That’s something that’s just not true. The climate hasn’t changed. It’s just been a very warm summer, as was last winter.”
Act 2. Three months from now.
Dorian, a Category 5 hurricane, has decimated the Bahamas and parts of Florida and South Carolina. Australia remains on fire; the Amazon is decimated. Unseasonable heat persists in Alaska, Greenland and north to the Arctic Circle. Europe swelters. A new Category 4 hurricane, yet unnamed, approaches Galveston, Texas. Flooding is predicted throughout south Texas, especially in Houston. A second Category 4 hurricane, also unnamed, is approaching Florida. As Santa Rosa rebuilds following the 2017 Tubbs Fire that ravaged the town and much of Sonoma, a new forest fire five miles to the west has begun. It has quickly spread to consume 10,000 acres, with no containment in sight.
Meanwhile, the Administration continues to deny the existence of global warming, blaming the ‘radical Left’ for perpetuating ‘this vicious hoax.’ Quietly, its assault on regulations intended to protect the environment progresses unimpeded. Drilling and mining have begun in several national forests. Lawsuits have been filed by the Administration to prevent California from instituting its own emission standards for automobiles, although four automakers have agreed to the state’s aggressive standards, with word that a fifth will soon commit. Climatologists’ impassioned warnings that humanity has less than 10 years to undo the harm it has done to the climate is written off by the Administration as ‘fake news.’
Act 3. Four months from now.
Our main characters are reintroduced, with flashbacks to document their lives before the calamity that befell them. Peace, tranquility and routine are juxtaposed with the horrors of fast-moving wildfires, powerful storms, deadly flooding, rapidly melting glaciers, and the frantic search for a family lost in the Florida Keys. Some survive, some die. All are changed forever, as are the regions in which they live.
The film ends as we see the formation of yet another powerful storm, this time off the coast of California. Fade to black as we watch unsuspecting school-aged children riding bikes in the streets of a southern California beach town.
* * * * * *
We’ve seen this movie, probably multiple times. The fervent pleas of scientists warning us of our impending doom. Our unwillingness to hear and act. Others who firmly disbelieve and work to undermine what they consider to be outlandish and irresponsible claims. The eventual arrival of the very events the scientists predicted. The saving of some, the death of many. And, just possibly, the destruction of the planet’s ability to sustain human life.
The difference this time is that we’re in this movie. It’s our lives on the line. It’s our future we risk by not listening, by not acting with urgency. The world’s scientists are yelling at the top of their lungs that we have less than 10 years to take action. Less than 10 years to save the planet. Anything less than coordinated, collaborative, aggressive action globally to change the course of the damage we have done to our climate is tacit acceptance of and complicity in the death of our lifestyle. If you enjoy a temperate climate, living safely near oceans and rivers, being in sunlight, and hope your children and their children can do the same, take heed. If you think this is overly dramatic, you haven’t been listening. Or maybe you’ve never seen this movie. We’re in Act 2 and it doesn’t end well.