If you haven’t already read "The Uninhabitable Earth," the haunting and widely shared New York Magazine article by David Wallace-Wells, you’re probably feeling fine. Blissfully ignorant. Happy, even. The article paints a not-so-pretty picture of how things will shake down over the next century as climate change alters Earthly ecology, where food shortages lead to massive starvation, temperatures rise so high the sun will literally cook people, and polluted air strangles us to death. One sci-fi-sounding factoid reminds readers of ancient diseases trapped underneath melting Alaskan and Siberian ice, or as Wallace-Wells puts it, "an abridged history of devastating human sickness, left out like egg salad in the Arctic sun."
For all the apocalyptic foresight, Wallace-Wells' prose doesn’t hold a candle to the imaginative ways in which Hollywood currently depicts climate change, or "cli-fi," as the sub-genre is called. More often than not, cli-fi movies set boundaries to assuage any fears that its premises are realistic. They often take place in a far-off future that is reassuringly unfamiliar, employ far-fetched technology that we can only dream of, feature a small but cataclysmic event that preposterously ruins the whole planet, or end happily as the Earth magically returns to its pre-disastrous state, as if nature can be fixed with the flick of a switch.
In reality, climate change is more slow-moving and complicated -- a single natural disaster can’t wipe out the entire planet -- but it’s also more rapidly advancing than we think; humans have been roaming the planet for hundreds of thousands of years, yet half of our carbon footprint has been stomped into Earth in the last three decades alone. There’s an argument to be made that Hollywood should strive to be more eco-realistic. More so than finger-wagging documentaries (sorry, Al Gore), blockbusters reach the masses and, in theory, can casually compel uninvested people to take action. Here are five cli-fi movies that should scare you in an entirely new way: