Does tomorrow ever come? Disaster narrative and public perceptions of climate change

Thomas Lowe, Katrina Brown*, Suraje Dessai, Miguel De França Doria, Kat Haynes, Katharine Vincent

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

256 Citations (Scopus)


The film The Day After Tomorrow depicts the abrupt and catastrophic transformation of the Earth's climate into a new ice age, playing upon the uncertainty surrounding a possible North Atlantic thermohaline circulation (Gulf Stream) shutdown. This paper investigates the impact of the film on people's perception of climate change through a survey of filmgoers in the UK. Analysis focuses on four issues: the likelihood of extreme impacts; concern over climate change versus other global problems; motivation to take action; and responsibility for the problem of climate change. It finds that seeing the film, at least in the short term, changed people's attitudes; viewers were significantly more concerned about climate change, and about other environmental risks. However, while the film increased anxiety about environmental risks, viewers experienced difficulty in distinguishing science fact from dramatized science fiction. Their belief in the likelihood of extreme events as a result of climate change was actually reduced. Following the film, many viewers expressed strong motivation to act on climate change. However, although the film may have sensitized viewers and motivated them to act, the public do not have information on what action they can take to mitigate climate change.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)435-457
Number of pages23
JournalPublic Understanding of Science
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2006


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