Summary Report No. 92



Double Impact - The Climate Blockbuster ’The Day After Tomorrow’ and its Impact on the German Cinema Public
F. Reusswig, J. Schwarzkopf, P. Polenz (October 2004)

When The Day After Tomorrow was released by end of May 2004 in more than 80 countries world wide, a huge media debate was already underway, putting forward the pros and cons of the impact of a highly spectacular and fictitious disaster movie on the public. Many environmental activists and public agencies expected support for their issue, while many climate scientists remained more sceptical and even expected backlashes. A study by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) in the framework of the European Climate Forum (ECF) tries to answer these and other questions. In six German cities a total of 1118 cinema visitors were asked before and after watching the film with regard to their perceptions of climate change, dangers associated with it, public and personal policy consequences, and film related issues. In addition, 149 telephone interviews were conducted with a subset of the sample about four weeks after the first two waves, controlling for persistency effects. The results show that the film surprised people by adding new, somewhat paradoxical features of climate change to the well established picture of slow and steady temperature increases with dangerous impacts distant in time and space. Climate change in the film is abrupt, close, and leads to a new ice age. People reacted with a drop in perceived probability of climate change. Nevertheless, the film did not lead to climate pessimism, but reinforced peoples' willingness to act, respectively to ask for political action. The film seems to have improved the public perception of science and the political role of scientists. The film might have opened a window of opportunity for (improved) environmental communication.


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